By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
It wasn't the weekend that Montana State University-Northern volleyball coach Lisa Handley had in mind.
Handley had hoped for at least a split in a pair of critical Frontier Conference road matches, but instead the Skylights lost a tight match with Rocky Mountain College on Friday and was handled convincingly by Carroll College on Saturday.
"There were things we needed to do this weekend, things we practiced all week on and we didn't do them," Handley said.
Friday's match was especially tough to lose because it was a match Northern expected to and should have won.
The Skylights grabbed the opening game 30-27, but then lost the next three by scores of 30-26, 30-26, 30-27.
"Those games really could have gone either way," Handley said. "In game four, we were up 27-21 but got into a tough rotation and just couldn't get out."
The Skylights were plagued by bad passing and a few bad breaks that come with playing on the road.
"We had a couple of crucial calls that went against us in games two and three at crucial moments," Handley said. "They really hurt us, but you have to overcome that kind of stuff to win on the road."
Northern got solid efforts from Mitsu Phillips and Lindsay Garcia, who finished with 18 and 14 kills, respectively. Kelly Thorpe dished out 42 assists while Nicole Kruse picked up 24 digs.
The effects of Friday's loss could still be felt on Saturday in Helena. Northern came out sluggish and indifferent, falling to Carroll 30-11, 30-17, 30-24.
"We went to Carroll expecting to lose," Handley said. "And that kind of attitude makes it impossible to win."
Carroll cruised in the first two games, but Northern seemed to come to life in game three, keeping it close throughout.
"It took us two games to figure out that we were good enough to play with Carroll," Handley said. "But by then it was too late."
Tanja Bruski and Garcia combined to lead Northern with nine kills while Kruse added 14 digs.
The two losses dropped Northern to 2-5 in the conference and 12-13 overall. The Skylights will host Montana Tech and Lewis-Clark State this weekend as part of Northern's homecoming weekend.
Rocky Mountain def. MSU-Northern
27-30, 30-26, 30-26, 30-27
MSUN - Kills 51 (Mitsu Phillips 18, Lindsay Garcia 14), Assists 47 (Kelly Thorpe 42), Aces 9 (Tanja Bruski 3, Katy Engstrom 3, Emmy Olson 3), Digs 81 (Nicole Kruse 24, Emmy Olson 15, Tera O'Haire 12), Blocks 8 (Garcia 2, Jeanna McPherson 2).
RMC - Kills 59 (Katy Furlong 20), Assists 51 (Tess Morrison 49), Aces 16 (Furlong 4), Digs 109 (Jen Buening 21, Morrison 20), Blocks 7 (Megan Longenecker 2).
Carroll College def. MSU-Northern
30-11, 30-17, 30-24
MSUN - Kills 12 (Bruski 5, Garcia 4), Assists 11 (Thorpe 10), Aces 3 (Brandi Snell 3), Digs 52 (Kruse 14), Blocks 5 (three tied with 1).
CC - Kills 35 (Tiffany Rochelle 8, Mary Lester 7), Assists 29 (Amber Miller 14, Katie Polette 8), Aces 10 (three tie with 2), Digs 54 (Christine Tyrrell 8), Blocks 8 (Nicky Woolard 2).