By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
It wasn't exactly the performance that Lisa Handley was looking for from Montana State University-Northern volleyball team a week before the conference season begins.
The Skylights struggled this past weekend, dropping four matches and playing, for the most part, uninspired volleyball.
"I was pretty disappointed in our play," Handley said. "We lacked energy and enthusiasm for the game, which isn't something that should happen."
The Skylights opened the so-called MSU-Billings tournament with a 30-16, 30-15, 30-23 loss to the host Yellowjackets.
Northern was plagued by hitting errors, committing 19 errors to just 18 kills in the match. Junior Julie Henderson led the Skylights with 13 digs, three kills and four blocks.
Things didn't get any better later in the day as Minot State handed the Skylights their second loss of the day, 30-27, 30-23, 30-18.
The Skylights battle in the first two games of the match and played considerably better, but couldn't overcome the Beavers.
Jordan Fox led the Skylight attack with 10 kills. Henderson continued her solid play with eight kills, 12 digs. Emilee Madsen chipped in with 21 assists and three service aces.
Because the tournament consisted of just three teams, Northern took on Minot State again on Saturday morning with the same results. Minot picked up a 30-19, 31-29, 30-25 win.
Northern was once again plagued with unforced errors, committing 26 hitting errors and five service errors. Fox led the way with 13 kills and 14 digs. Henderson added 15 digs and eight kills, while Madsen and Kelly Thorpe combined for 24 assists and 22 digs.
Later on Saturday, Northern traveled to Sheridan, Wyo. for an exhibition match against Sheridan Community College. SCC picked up a close 30-24, 30-26, 30-27 win. The Skylights used every player in the match and tried to work on some different combinations, since the match did not count against their overall record.
Fox continued to hit the ball well, notching 13 aces. Ashley Roth had a solid all-around match picking up seven kills, nine digs, three blocks and a pair of aces. Christine Smith dished out 20 assists and added two aces.
"It's one thing to be losing and playing hard," Handley said. "But it's another to get beat and not give the effort. We had some girls who were really giving every thing they had and others that weren't. That's not going to get it done."
Handley shouldered some of the blame, admitting that her team's nonconference schedule was far from easy.
"I set up a tough nonconference schedule to prepare them for conference, but maybe it was too tough," Handley said. "MSU-Billings is right on the top of their game and Minot has three NCAA Division I transfers that make them really good."
"It's all about confidence. And right now we're lacking it."
Not exactly what you want heading into the first weekend of the conference season on the road. Handley said her team's attitude toward the game must change and change immediately.
"It's time to stop making excuses and play," she said. "We have to play every play like we did in the opening tournament. We didn't do that this past weekend and that kind of attitude is not going to get it done in conference."
Northern travels to Helena on Friday to face Carroll College and then to Billings on Saturday to take on Rocky Mountain College
MSU-Billings def. MSU-Northern
30-16, 30-15, 30-23
MSU-N - Kills 18 (Jordan Fox 4, Julie Henderson 3, Jasmine Mitchell 3); Assists 15 (Emilee Madsen 11); Digs 45 (Julie Henderson 13, Jordan Fox 8), Aces 2 (Alicia Mannin 1, Kelly Thorpe 1); Blocking 8.5 (Julie Henderson 4, Ashley Roth 4).
Minot St. def. MSU-Northern
30-27, 30-23, 30-18
MSU-N - Kills 36 (Jordan Fox 10, Julie Henderson 8, Jordan Fox 7); Assists 33 (Emilee Madsen 21, Kelly Thorpe 10); Digs 52 (Julie Henderson 12, Alicia Mannin 10); Aces 7 (Emilee Madsen 3); Blocks 8.5 (Jeanna McPherson 4, Jasmine Mitchell 4).
Minot St. def. MSU-Northern
30-19, 31-29, 30-25
MSU-N - Kills 35 (Jordan Fox 13, Julie Henderson 8); Assists 34 (Emilee Madsen 18, Kelly Thorpe 16); Digs 76 (Julie Henderson 15, Jordan Fox 14, Emilee Madsen 12, Kelly Thorpe 10); Blocks 9.5 (Jeanna McPherson 6, Jasmine Mitchell 5).
Sheridan College def. MSU-Northern
MSU-N - Kills 37 (Jordan Fox 13, Ashley Roth 7); Assists 32 (Christine Smith 20); Digs 62 (Lindsay Garcia 11, Alicia Mannin 9, Ashley Roth 9); Aces 5 (Christine Smith 2, Ashley Roth 2); Blocks 6 (Ashley Roth 3)