Havre Daily News Sports Editor
Sometimes playing on the road can be a good thing. For the Montana State University-Northern volleyball team, a five-day road trip back east seemed to be just what the Skylights needed.
Northern finished its tour of New York with a 4-1 record, and more importantly picked up some much needed court time to gel as a unit.
"When you are on the road like that, it's just the team and nothing else," said head coach Lisa Handley. "I think it really allowed the girls to focus on the things we need to do to get better as a team."
Northern opened play with a 30-26, 30-21, 30-22 win over Daemon College on Sept. 1. The Skylights used a balanced offensive attack led by the trio of Jeanna McPherson, Jasmine Mitchell and Jordan Fox in the match. McPherson and Mitchell had 12 kills apiece, while Fox had a solid all-around match with nine kill, 12 digs, five aces and a block.
"Jordan has really become a better all-around player," Handley said. "With the weapons we have on this team, we don't need to rely on just her hitting."
Kelly Thorpe added 18 digs, while Tracee Tesch and Emilee Madsen combined for 37 assists.
On Sept. 2, the Skylights suffered their only loss of the trip, falling 33-31, 30-20, 30-25, 30-27 to Roberts College.
Despite the loss, Northern racked up massive numbers as four players reached double figures in kills led by Fox with 19. She added 21 digs and two aces. Mitchell had 15 kills, Julie Henderson had 14 kills and Tera O'Haire chipped in with 12. Madsen and Tesch combined for 65 assists and 31 digs in the match.
The Skylights rebounded from the loss to defeat Grand View College 30-21, 30-28, 30-25 later in the day.
Fox had 10 kills and 12 digs, while Henderson had 10 kills and nine digs. Thorpe had another solid defensive match with 18 digs and Tesch added 14 assists.
On the final today of the tournament, Northern continued to get a balanced effort in a 30-18, 30-17, 30-22 win over Rio Grande College. Ashley Roth continued her steadily improving play with nine kills and three blocks. McPherson was solid with seven kills and six blocks, while Tesch had 20 assists and three aces.
"Ashley has been doing a nice job at a new position," Handley said. "She is really pushing for some playing time."
Northern wrapped up tournament play with a dominating 30-16, 30-13, 30-17 win over Daemon.
"I really liked the girls attitude in that last match," Handley said. "They made a goal not to let them get to 15 points in a game. They really showed that killer instinct that they need to be successful. In the past, we would kind of just play to hang on."
Roth continued to play well with 11 kills, two blocks and two digs. O'Haire had eighth kills and four blocks, while Thorpe had 18 digs. Northern served up a whopping 18 aces in the match with Madsen picking up four and Thorpe and McPherson adding four each.
"We really didn't have any one player stand out above the rest," Handley said. "We just had a real balanced performance and all of the girls played well. I think the girls saw how powerful we can be if everyone is contributing to the offense."
Handley hopes the road trip will pay dividends later in the season.
"It was a good trip all around for us," Handley said. "I think it was a growing experience for us as a team both on and off the court."
The Skylights will be in action on Saturday when they host an alumni squad for a match, starting at 7 p.m.
The alumni team will feature former players Gabrielle Chambliss, Sarah Bruce, Janelle Gillies, Emmy Olson, Alica Mannin, Melanie (Baack) Jenkins, Tanja Bruski, Connie (Fritz) Becker, Melissa Evans, Laura Munson and Emi Sasaki
While the alumni matches aren't always the most intense, Handley believes they serve a purpose.
"We want to play our starters some, but we also want to play the younger kids to get some court time," Handley said. "This is a good way for us to rest up, but still get some time on the court."
Northern will open the Frontier Conference schedule next week when it hosts Carroll College and Rocky Mountain College.
"The girls are really fired up to play Rocky and Carroll," Handley said. "They're anxious for a conference match. But we still have some work to do and things to improve on before then."
MSU-Northern def. Daemon College
30-26, 30-21, 30-22
MSU-N leaders - Kills 44 (Jeanna McPherson 12, Jasmine Mitchell 12, Jordan Fox 9); Assists 39 (Tracee Tesch 19, Emilee Madsen 18); Digs 49 (Kelly Thorpe 18, Jordan Fox 12); Aces 12 (Jordan Fox 5, Tracee Tesch 4); Blocks 2 (Tera O'Haire 1, Jordan Fox 1).
DC leaders - unavailable
Roberts College def. MSU-Northern
33-31, 30-20, 30-25, 30-27
MSU-N leaders - Kills 76 (Jordan Fox 19, Jasmine Mitchell 15, Julie Henderson 14, Tera O'Haire 12); Assists 69 (Emilee Madsen 39, Tracee Tesch 26); Digs 96 (Jordan Fox 21, Kelly Thorpe 20, Emilee Madsen 18, Tracee Tesch 13, Julie Henderson 12); Aces 7 (Tracee Tesch 2, Jordan Fox 2); Blocks 10 (Tera O'Haire 7).
RC leaders - unavailable
MSU-Northern def. Grand View College
30-21, 30-28, 30-25
MSU-N leaders - Kills 32 (Jordan Fox 10, Julie Henderson 10); Assists 25 (Tracee Tesch 14, Emilee Madsen 11); Digs 51 (Kelly Thorpe 18, Jordan Fox 12); Aces 9 (Jordan Fox 3); Blocks 12 (Tera O'Haire 5).
GVC leaders - unavailable
MSU-Northern def. Rio Grande College
30-18, 30-17, 30-22
MSU-N leaders - Kills 41 (Ashley Roth 9, Jeanna McPherson 7); Assists 37 (Tracee Tesch 20, Emilee Madsen 12); Digs 59 (Kelly Thorpe 14, Jordan Fox 12, Emilee Madsen 11); Aces 14 (Emilee Madsen 4, Tracee Tesch 3); Blocks 9 (Jeanna McPherson 6).
RGC leaders - unavailable