By Ryan Divish
There shouldn't be any reason for the Montana State University-Northern volleyball team to be excited about playing tonight.
The Skylights will take on Frontier Conference leading UM-Western tonight at Straugh Gym in Dillon at 7 p.m.
The Bulldogs are 4-0 in the Frontier, having defeated Montana Tech, Rocky Mountain and Carroll College three of the top teams in the conference.
"It's a tribute to the level of competition in this league," said Skylights head coach Lisa Handley. "Western is a huge game for us."
Northern, 9-11 overall and 1-2 in conference, is still looking to find some overall consistency in its play.
"We can't make mistakes against Western," Handley said."It's pretty simple."
Northern played the Bulldogs earlier this season in the championship match of the UM-Western Invitational. In that match, Western defeated Northern in three games: 30-25, 30-21, 30-15.
"We played them tough in the first game," Handley said. "They really blocked us well and we made a lot of mistakes."
However, the Skylights were without Tanja Bruski, who had sprained an ankle, while Emmy Olson and Tamecia Watkins played despite having the flu.
"We'll be at full strength this time," Handley said. "Tanja is fully healed."
Regardless, the Skylights are still facing a solid team that is undefeated in conference for a reason.
"Western is definitely beatable," Handley said. "But they just play so well together as a team. They really compliment each other well."
After tonight's Western match, the Skylights will drive to Salt Lake City on Friday to take on the Westminster Griffins on Friday night.
Westminster is 2-22 on the season, but that doesn't guarantee a Skylight victory.
"We just have to play our game against Westminster," Handley said. "They are just like us. They can play very well at times, and at other times they can make a lot of mistakes."
Perhaps the biggest obstacle for the Skylights will be the travel itself. Because of budget constraints and conference scheduling, the Skylights will spend more time in a the fifteen person passenger van than on the court.
It's typical of a volleyball season, Handley said. But riding in a vehicle for five hours and then getting out and trying to play is not always easy.
"It's something that you have to deal with," Handley said. "We do things to try and overcome it. It something that happens in volleyball. We just have to play through it."