Chris Peterson Havre Daily News email@example.com
After a season full of growing pains, the Montana State University-Northern volleyball team has one final shot at redemption. The Skylights open up play in the 2006 Frontier Conference tournament in Butte against Westminster College. The Skylights are seeded seventh in the tournament after struggling to a 3-11 record in conference play and a 5-17 mark overall. Their first round opponent in the eight-team single elimination tournament will be co-regular season champion and second-seeded Westminster. “I think that Westminster is a pretty good match up for us,” MSU-N head coach Greg Ryan said. “I think that we match up pretty well against their hitters. They also have a similar serving style to us, which made it easier to prepare for them.” Northern faced Westminster (20-9 overall, 12-2 conference) twice in the regular season and both times they fell short, dropping both matches in three games. Westminster, a team that has won 15 out of their last 17 games, comes into the game with one of the best offensive attacks in the NAIA, with an average of 13. 7 kills per game that ranks them 22nd nationally. The Griffins’ offense is led by Angie Johnson, who leads the Frontier conference in kills per game with 4.7 as well as secondary option Allison Culp, who averages 2. 8 kills per game. Part of the reason why the Griffins have had so much success killing the ball is top-flight setter Monica Shorts. Shorts averaged 10.7 assists per game and is also the reigning Frontier conference player of the week. Northern will counter with top hitters Carlee Hoff, who leads the Skylights with 3.1 kills per game as well as Rachel Mrdeza, who in second on the team in kills with 2.8 per game. Brittany Selser is the the Skylights’ top setter with an average of 8.9 assists per game, while Tera O’Haire and Jeanna McPherson, who both average 0. 9 blocks per game, anchor the defense. “We have two pretty young hitters in Rachel and Carlee,” Ryan said. “It has taken them a while to get adjusted to a new setter, they are all new to each other. They all have experience playing, but they just don’t have experience playing with each other, so it has taken a while for things to come together.” Along with Westminster, the University of Great Falls is one of the favorites to take home the Frontier conference tournament championship. The top seeded Argos (19-7 overall, 12-2 conference) will begin their run to the championship against eighth seeded Western (1-26 overall, 1-13 conference) today at 1. Fourth-seeded Rocky Mountain College (15-8 overall, 8-6 conference) will take on fifth-seeded Montana Tech at 3. At 6 p.m. third-seeded Carroll College (18-8 overall, 9-5 conference) will face off against sixth-seeded Lewis and Clark State (8-18 overall, 4-10 conference) and capping off the first day will be the Skylights and the Griffins at 8 p.m. The Frontier Conference tournament will run through Saturday night with the championship match scheduled for 5 p. m. in Butte. Last year, the Skylights finished third.