By Ryan Divish
The Montana State University-Northern volleyball team did everything it was supposed to do but win. The Skylights played with intensity and aggressiveness in both of their matches this weekend. Despite their solid play, they could not find a way to pick up a win.
Montana Tech defeated Northern 30-14, 30-22, 26-30 and 30-25, on Thursday afternoon in Butte, and then on Saturday in Lewiston, Idaho, Lewis-Clark State downed Northern 30-20, 30-27, 26-30 and 30-19.
"We played both teams a lot tougher than we did at home earlier this season," said head coach Lisa Handley. "The games were even closer that the scores show."
In Thursday's match, both Northern and Tech came out sluggish as evidenced by the score of the first game. Because of scheduling conflicts with a Tech booster function, the match was played at 4 p.m., which is considerably earlier than normal Frontier Conference matches.
"Both teams played like it was an afternoon match," Handley said.
Tech jumped out to an early two-game lead before Northern shook the afternoon rust off. The Skylights won game three and played Tech tough in the fourth game before falling. It was in those games that Northern realized that it could compete with Tech.
"We had some lack of confidence before the game even started," Handley said. "We talked about believing that they were going to win every match."
The Skylights were led by Tamecia Watkins and Tanja Bruski with 10 kills apiece. Brandy Pushka added 13 digs while Hannah Nutting dished 30 assists.
Northern took Handley's words to heart on Saturday night. Despite losing the match, they were in position to win every game.
"They started taking care of the ball," Handley said. "We played aggressive, but we ended up making some critical mistakes."
Emmy Olson and Watkins combined for 21 kills and 35 digs in the match while Brandy Pushka played possibly her best match of the season, picking up 18 digs.
"Brandy brought so much energy to the floor," Handley said. "Emmy Olson probably played as well as she has all season."
Northern, 1-7 in conference and 9-17 overall, played well, just not well enough to win. It's something that has plagued the Skylights this season. They show flashes of brilliance, but they can't sustain it for any length of time.
"That's what's the most frustrating thing," Handley said. "It's there and I can see it and the girls can see it, but we just can't seem to keep it there."
Northern is in the midst of a six-match losing streak, but hopes to end it when the team faces the University of Great Falls on Wednesday.