Havre Daily News Sports Editor
In the last match they will ever play in Havre, Montana State University-Northern senior volleyball players Jordan Fox and Jasmine Mitchell did all they could to get one last win in the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse.
However, the University of Great Falls Argos stood in the way of that memory, as the Argos outlasted the Skylights in five games Wednesday night in Havre. It was the second time this season that the two teams battled into a fifth game with the Argos coming out on top. On Wednesday, UGF defeated the Skylights by scores of 30-25, 24-30, 30-28, 26-30 and 15-10.
“It is very disappointing to lose to UGF like this again,” said MSU-N head coach Lisa Handley. “It was the last match the seniors will ever play here, so they are very disappointed.
“But what they have to realize is that we're not done yet,” she added. “We have two regular-season matches left and we need to pick it back up and finish the season strong.”
Unfortunately, the Skylights didn't finish Wednesday night's match strong enough. After UGF took a commanding two-games-to-one lead, the Skylights found themselves staring defeat in the face when the Argos raced out to an early lead in game four. UGF's lead swelled to 17-10 and things looked very gloomy for MSU-N.
That is when Fox, Mitchell and junior Jeanna McPherson took over. Mitchell earned a couple of key tip kills to cut into the lead, and McPherson's blocking was solid all night. Fox took the game over when she scored three straight points to put the Skylights ahead for good. Trailing 20-19, Fox pounded two straight kills to give the Skylights the lead, and she finished the sequence off with an emphatic block of Argo star hitter Claudia Jacobs. Mitchell added two more kills on the way to a 30-26 win that ignited the MSU-Northern crowd.
“Jordan really played well in the fourth game,” Handley said. “She was a real leader for us, and she did all she could to get it done.”
Game five didn't go the Skylights' way, just as it happened in Great Falls. UGF came out inspired, and grabbed an early lead. With a race to 15, the Skylights fell too far behind, and Jacobs and fellow outside hitter Brittany Prater finished the Skylights off for good.
“This team loves to play from behind,” Handley said. “But in a fifth game, you can't afford to get behind, especially against a great serving team like UGF.
“Our serve-receive really broke down in that fifth game, and unfortunately that was the difference in the match.”
The difference for the Argos was serving and hitting. UGF racked up 72 kills and had four players score in double figures, led by Jacobs with a match-high 21 kills. Prater was also on fire for most of the night, totalling 18 kills. The Argos also put intense pressure on Northern's serve-receive game, and it showed in the first two games and again in game five.
Still, UGF head coach Arunas Duda credits his team's focus for the win in the fifth game.
“I think this team just came out fired up to play the fifth game,” he said. “I think that was the big difference. Even though we didn't win the fourth game, some good things happened to us right at the end and that carried over into the last game.”
The win over the Skylights improves UGF's record to 9-3 in conference play. Duda said this was one of the team's biggest wins of the year.
“This win was huge for us,” Duda said. “Anytime you can go on the road and beat your rival school, it's big.
“The crowd was tough on us tonight,” he added. “They were very loud, so it is a credit to this team to stay focused and play as well as they did.”
The Skylights also seemed to feed off of one of the loudest and most energetic crowds of the season. Mitchell didn't hit the ball as well as she had been coming into the match, but still managed a team-high 19 kills and five blocks. Fox was brilliant with 17 kills, five blocks, 15 digs and two aces. McPherson paced the Skylights' blocking efforts with a match-high six.
“We're disappointed because as the match went on we hit the ball worse and worse, and we just don't play as well when that is happening,” Handley said. “We're also really disappointed because our fans were so amazing tonight and we couldn't get it done for them.”
MSU-N (5-7, 10-11) won't be back in action until Nov. 3, when the team travels to Westminster College. The Skylights will also be in Dillon to take on UM-Western on Nov. 5.
“I think the rest will be very good for us,” Handley said. “We have a lot of players with sore ankles and knees, and not playing this weekend will allow us to heal up a bit.”
UGF def. MSU-N
30-25, 24-30, 30-28, 26-30, 15-10
UGF - Kills 72 (Claudia Jacobs 21, Brittany Prater 18, Lesly Richter 11, Jennifer Wright 10); Blocks 6 (Richter 2); Digs 71 (Kari Schiller 29); Assists 68 (Jennifer Peteren 54); Aces 7 (Prater 3).
MSU-N - Kills 61 (Jasmine Mitchell 19, Jordan Fox 17); Blocks 19 (Jeanna McPherson 6, Mitchell 5, Fox 5); Digs 66 (Kelly Thorpe 24, Fox 15); Assists 51 (Tracee Tesch 28); Aces 8 (McPherson 3, Fox 2).