Havre Daily News Sports Editor
It has been a rollercoaster season for the Montana State University-Northern volleyball team, filled with some highs and even more lows. The Skylights went on one last wild ride this weekend at the Frontier Conference tournament in Butte.
The Skylights came into the conference tournament seeded fifth and had the daunting task of facing Montana Tech on the Orediggers' home floor in the opening round.
Northern preceded to sweep the Orediggers in three games on its way to finishing in third place over the weekend, defeating the University of Great Falls in the consolation match.
On Friday afternoon, the Skylights opened the tournament against a Tech team that had defeated them twice already this season. In the two previous meetings, Northern could not handle Tech's fast offense. But on Friday, Skylight offense gave Tech fits for a change.
Northern opened the match with a 30-21 win in game one. That score set the tone for the rest of the match and the Skylights never looked back. MSU-N held a charging Tech team off in game two, 30-28, and then easily ended the Orediggers' season with a 30-22 win in game three.
The duo of Jordan Fox and Jasmine Mitchell was effective, as usual, as the two racked up 13 kills apiece in the win. Fox completed a fine all-round match with five blocks and nine digs. The MSU-N serve-receive game held the Tech offense to 40 kills. Maria McNeil, who came in as one of the top offensive players in the conference, was limited to just 11 kills in the match.
The win over Tech pushed the Skylights into Saturday morning's semifinal match, where they would face another team they hadn't beat all season - top-seeded Westminster College.
Despite playing well and winning game one, 30-28, the Skylights were no match for the Griffins. Westminster fought back to win the next three games, including an easy 30-15 win in game four.
Westminster's Angie Johnson was outstanding, totaling 22 kills and three blocks in the win. Northern got 12 kills and a pair of blocks from junior Jeanna McPherson in the losing effort.
Even though the Skylights lost, they would still have a chance to play for a trophy on Saturday night when they faced archrival UGF in the tournament's consolation match. The Argos were the Skylights' third straight opponent on the weekend that they had failed to beat during the regular season. To compound matters, UGF had defeated Northern in five, gut-wrenching games in the two previous meetings between the two teams.
What ensued on Saturday night was a third epic battle between the two teams, but with an entirely different outcome. UGF jumped out to a 30-24 win in the opening game before the Skylights rebounded to take games two and three. UGF then staved off elimination by capturing game four, 31-29.
In the previous two meetings between the schools, it was MSU-N thatfailed to rise to the occasion in game five. In Butte, the Skylights were finally up to the challenge. MSU-N took control of the decisive game early and never let go, ending their heartbreak against UGF with a 15-10 win in the final game.
Fox and Mitchell were once again dominant offensively, each totaling 15 kills in the match. Fox also had four service aces, while Mitchell and McPherson chipped in with six blocks apiece. UGF got 19 kills from Brittany Prater. Jennifer Wright added 16 kills and two blocks in the loss.
While Northern finished third at the Frontier Conference tournament, top-seeded Westminster went on to defeat sixth-seeded Carroll College in a five-game thriller in the championship match.
Frontier Conference Tournament
MSU-N def. Montana Tech
30-21, 30-28, 30-22.
Kills - Northern 47 (Jordan Fox 13, Jasmine Mitchell 13, Jeanna McPherson 9, Julie Henderson 6, Tera O'Haire 3, Tracee Tesch 2, Emilee Madsen-Summers 1), Tech 40 (Maria McNeil 11, CoreyAnne Russell 10, Liz Marsik 7, Krystle Spang 5, Janet Friesz 4, Lindsay Balfour 3). Assists - Northern 41 (Tesch 37, Fox 1, Madsen-Summers 1), Tech 33 (Balfour 32, Spang 1). Aces - Northern 3 (Henderson 1, Kelly Thorpe 1, Madsen-Summers 1), Tech 4 (Emily Glasson 2, Balfour 1, Spang 1). Digs - Northern 53 (Madsen-Summers 15, Fox 9, Henderson 9, Thorpe 8, O'Haire 4, Mitchell 4, Tesch 3, McPherson 1), Tech 50 (Beka Hudson 20, Spang 7, Glasson 6, Balfour 5, Russell 3, McNeil 3, Kristi Witt 5, Friesz 1). Blocks - Northern 11 (Fox 5, O'Haire 3, Mitchell 2, Tesch 1), Tech 4 (Marsik 3, Alida Fiamengo 1).
Westminster def. MSU-N
28-30, 30-21, 30-28, 30-15
Kills- Westminster 58 (Angie Johnson 22, Celestial Alofipo 12, Maxi Miller 11, Fa'alua Lobedahn 7, Brittani Willardson 4, Monica Shorts 2), Northern 53 (Jeanna McPhearson 12, Jasmine Mitchell 11, Julie Henderson 9, Jordan Fox 8, Tera O'Haire 8, Tracee Tesch 3, Kelly Thrope 1, Ashley Roth 1). Assists - Westminster 51 (Shorts 42, Alofipo 3, Paige Hunt 2, Lobedahn 1, Johnson 1, Willardson 1, Miller 1), Northern 48 (Tesch 47, Henderson 1). Aces - Westminster 1 (Hunt), Northern 6 (Fox 2, Henderson 2, O'Haire 1, Emilee Madsen-Summers 1). Digs - Westminster 70 (Bree Reit 19, Alofipo 17, Shorts 13, Johnson 8, Hunt 7, Lobedahn 3, Miller 3), Northern 67 (Madsen-Summers 22, Fox 20, Thrope 8, Tesch 7, O'Haire 4, Henderson 3, Mitchell 3). Blocks - Westminster 13 (Alofipo 3, Willardson 3, Miller 3, Johnson 2, Deb Overfelt 1, Shorts 1), Northern 7 (McPhearson 2, Mitchell 2, Fox 1, Tesch 1, Christine Smith 1).
MSU-N def. Great Falls
24-30, 30-19, 30-24, 29-31, 15-10.
Kills - Northern 62 (Jasmine Mitchell 17, Jordan Fox 15, Julie Henderson 9, Jeanna McPherson 8, Tera O'Haire 6, Ashley Roth 6, Tracee Tesch 1), Great Falls 70 (Brittany Prater 19, Jennifer Wright 16, Claudia Jacobs 14, Lesly Richter 11, Jennifer Petersen 10). Assists - Northern 56 (Tesch 51, J. Henderson 2, Mitchell 2, Roth 1), Great Falls 58 (Petersen 55, Richter 1, Jacobs 1, J. Wright 1). Aces - Northern 8 (Fox 4, J. Henderson 1, O'Haire 1, Tesch 1, Kelly Thorpe 1), Great Falls 7 (Jacobs 4, Rachel Escosia 2, Kari Schiller 1). Digs - Northern 74 (Emilee Madsen-Summers 26, Tesch 12, Thorpe 10, Fox 9, J. Henderson 4, Roth 4, Mitchell 3, Nicole Henderson 2, O'Haire 2, McPherson 2), Great Falls 73 (Jacobs 24, Schiller (McPherson 6, Mitchell 5.5, Roth 4, J. Henderson Falls 5 (J. Wright 2, Jacobs 1, Jodi Miller 1, Prater 1).