Havre Daily News Sports Editor
A year ago, the Montana State University-Northern volleyball team couldn't lose a five-game match. This year, the Skylights can't seem to win one.
Northern dropped its third five-game match in three weeks, falling to the Frontier Conference leading University of Great Falls 35-37, 30-24, 30-25, 21-30, 15-7 Wednesday night at the McLauglin Center.
"We knew it was going to be tough, that was no surprise," said Skylights head coach Lisa Handley. "There were ups and downs for both teams in the match."
Unfortunately, Northern's ups could not outnumber the downs.
The Skylights scored a marathon 37-35 win in Game 1 as both teams traded points down the stretch, trying to outdo the other with one spectacular play after another.
"That was the best I've seen us play all year," Handley said. "We showed so much heart in that game."
The heart didn't disappear, but some old habits reappeared in the games 2 and 3 as Northern dropped both in disappointing fashion.
"We made way too many errors in games 2 and 3," Handley said. "It was mental error after mental error."
Any momentum that the Skylights had from Game 1 had shifted over to UGF going into Game 4.
Northern proved resilient in Game 4, picking up a 30-21 win.
"We kind of got away from our game plan in games 2 and 3 and stopped setting our middles," Handley said. "We started going back to our middles more in Game 4 and we rolled over them."
However, in the all-important Game 5, Northern reverted back to its play of games 2 and 3.
"We played really tight in Game 5," Handley said. "Instead of playing to pound the ball, we played scared. Our serve-receive totally fell apart. We got stuck in one rotation and it snowballed. We just weren't getting to the balls we were getting to earlier."
Handley blamed herself some in the Game 5 collapse.
"There are some things I messed up in Game 5," she said. "I should've put Jasmine (Mitchell) on the right side to block their outsides better. But I got caught up worrying about our defense, instead of making changes at the net."
Great Falls was led by a very balanced attack. Brittany Prater had 20 kills and 22 digs, while fellow outside hitters Jennifer Wright and Claudia Jacobs combined for 23 kills. Freshman Jodi Miller had 16 kills and former Lewistown standout Lesly Richter had 11 kills, six aces and four blocks.
"The thing that impressed me about UGF was how they never got down on themselves in the match," Handley said. "We had some of the hardest blocks, where the ball went straight down, and it didn't bother them in the least. They didn't get down or pout, they kept their heads in the game."
Northern was led by Jordan Fox with 20 kills and 20 digs. Mitchell had 15 kills and five blocks. Ashley Roth had 30 of the Skylights' 109 digs, while Kelly Thorpe added 27 digs and two aces. Emilee Madsen-Summers dished out 49 assists and Tera O'Haire had 11 blocks.
"We didn't play badly, but I definitely know we can play better," Handley said. "We had one of the best defensive nights we've ever had. We just need to stick to our game plan better and make better decisions."
The Skylights will be off this weekend before returning to action next weekend when they host Westminster College and UM-Western
Great Falls def. MSU-Northern
35-37, 30-24, 30-25, 21-30, 15-7
MSU-Northern - Kills 61 (Jordan Fox 20, Jasmine Mitchell 15); Assists 61 (Emilee Madsen-Summers 49), Aces 5 (Kelly Thorpe 2); Digs 109 (Ashley Roth 30, Kelly Thorpe 27, Jordan Fox 20); Blocks 20 (Tera O'Haire 11, Jasmine Mitchell 5).
Great Falls - Kills 73 (Brittany Prater 20, Jodi Miller 16, Jennifer Wright 12, Lesly Richter 11, Claudia Jacobs 11); Assists 73 (Jennifer Petersen 63); Aces 7 (Lesly Richter 6); Digs 109 (Kari Schiller 27, Jacobs 25, Prater 22); Blocks 7 (Richter 4, Jennifer Wright 2).