Havre Daily News Sports Editor
Redemption can be a great feeling in the world of sports. Tonight, the Montana State University-Northern volleyball team will be looking to taste redemption when it hosts the University of Great Falls at 7, in what will be the Skylights' regular-season home finale.
MSU-N won't just be looking to redeem itself for its disappointing loss to Montana Tech at home last Saturday night. They will be looking to hand UGF a loss, just as the Lady Argos did to them last month in Great Falls.
In that match, the Argos outlasted the Skylights, winning in five games. MSU-N went on to lose two more matches at home the following weekend, before finally ending the losing streak two weeks ago in Billings. But the Skylights' rollercoaster season didn't end there. Last weekend, Northern promptly dispatched Lewis-Clark State, but could not find a way to avenge an earlier loss to Montana Tech.
Meanwhile, the Argos have also experienced some tough times in the second half of the Frontier Conference season. At the time of their win over Northern, UGF sat in first place in the conference standings. Since that time, they have lost three matches and are struggling to pull out victories. Still, MSU-N head coach Lisa Handley maintains that UGF will come into Havre tonight more than ready to face the Skylights.
“Even though UGF hasn't played as well as they did earlier in the season, I don't think it will make a difference,” Handley said. “If anything, they will come in here more focused and more determined to play well. Time is running short in the season, and everybody needs wins. That is just how competitive our league is this year.”
The Argos sit in a tie for second place in the conference with an 8-3 record. UM-Western is also 8-3, and Westminster College leads the league with one loss. The Skylights are in fifth place after their loss to Tech last weekend, with a 5-6 record.
“Every match this season has been big,” Handley said. “That is because anyone can win in this conference on any given night.
“We're not going to treat this match any differently than any other match we have played this season,” she added.
Both the Argos and Orediggers hurt the Skylights offensively. In Great Falls, UGF racked up 73 kills and had five players in double figures. Standout hitters Brittany Pratter and Jodi Miller combined for 36 of those 73 kills. Middle-hitter Lesly Richter will also present a matchup challenge for the Skylights tonight, just as she did in Great Falls. The former Lewistown standout had 12 kills and six blocks in her last match against MSU-N.
The Skylights had a similar problem stopping Montana Tech last Saturday. The Orediggers also had five players in double figures in kills. Maria McNeil led the way with an astonishing 25 kills.
“When we pass the ball poorly against a good serving team, that is what can happen,” Handley said of Tech's offensive night. “We just have to do a much better job with our serve-receive game.”
Fortunately, the Skylights have the ability to counter UGF's prowess at the net. Seniors Jasmine Mitchell and Jordan Fox have steadily climbed the conference leader board in most offensive categories. Junior Tera O'Haire is also coming off of a very productive weekend for the Skylights. And former HHS standout Jeanna McPherson has emerged as a solid middle-hitter for the Skylights as of late.
Still, if the Skylights are to be victorious tonight, Handley said, they will have to put the previous disappointments behind them and focus on the task at hand.
“When we don't play well, it is because we get scared and we tend to fall back on our heels a little,” Handley said. “We can't let what happened against Tech affect how we play against UGF.
“We have to come out focused and ready to play,” she added. “Because there is no doubt they will come in here fired up and looking for a win.”
Tonight's match between the Skylights and Argos will get under way at 7 p.m. It is Pack the House Night at Northern, and all spectators are encouraged to participate in a Halloween costume contest.