BUTTE, Mont. -- After a hot start to their 2012 postseason, the Lewis-Clark State College volleyball team battled past a valiant Dickinson State squad for a four-set victory in the quarterfinals of the Frontier Conference Tournament at Sampson Court Friday on the campus of Montana Tech.
The Warriors will now battle No. 4 seed MSU-Northern, a four-set winner over No. 5 Montana Tech on Friday, in Saturday morning’s semifinal, which begins at 10 a.m., Pacific Time.
Niurka Toribio, who was named the Frontier Conference Newcomer of the Year on Thursday as well as being selected to the All-Conference first team, had a game-high 22 kills and registered a staggering .514 hitting percentage against the Blue Hawks.
She had just three attack errors on her 37 attempts, and also registered 13 digs and two blocks for LCSC.
Keisha Luebbert-Kennedy tacked on 14 kills from the middle, and hit .385 for the match.
LCSC cruised to a 25-11 win in the first set as the Blue Hawks, which earned their first conference win of the season in Thursday night’s play-in match. The Warriors then had DSU facing elimination after a 25-20 triumph in the second set that saw LCSC hit .316 as a team with 19 kills against just seven errors.
“We had a set game plan of what we needed to run against them, and we stuck with it,” Lewis-Clark State coach LaToya Harris said. “It made us successful in the first few sets and we were able to control the game.”
But No. 9 seed Dickinson State fought back, capitalizing on an error-free set and some late miscues by Lewis-Clark State to win 25-21 and force a fourth set. The Blue Hawks hit .414 as a team in the third game, pounding out 12 kills without a hitting error.
“Within this conference, I think they’re the team that shows the most heart,” Harris said of Dickinson, which she expects to be much improved in 2013. “They stay strong together regardless of their record. They’re going to do good things next year.”
Dickinson State’s Sarah Zeibig, who led the Blue Hawks with 11 kills on a .429 hitting percentage on Friday, had back-to-back kills to help her team erase a six-point Warrior lead early in the third set.
DSU took the last four points of that third game.
Harris shuffled the lineup for the fourth set, inserting freshman Regine Standley in at middle blocker and sophomore Brianna Kelly on the outside.
“We wanted to change the look a little bit, and both were eager,” Harris said. “We really didn’t talk about too much (in between third and fourth sets). We made adjustments because we went away from our game plan.”
The Warriors never trailed in the fourth set, which they won 25-21 after Luebbert-Kennedy slammed down a kill to finally put away the Blue Hawks.
Harris admitted that the team had a look of one playing not to lose rather than to win late in Friday’s match, and strayed from the aggressive play that put it up two sets.
“We just have to play as if there’s no pressure. Once we put all that pressure on our shoulders we try too hard and that changes our momentum,” Harris said.
Harris expects Saturday's semifinal against MSU-Northern to be a competitive affair. The two teams split their regular-season meetings, with the home team winning both times.
"Whoever shows up and keeps their game going is going to win," she said. "Northern has a strong middle, so we'll have to help being aggressive and keep the ball under control. We're happy with the win today, but we have a few more to go."