George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor email@example.com
There's finishing a season strong, and there's finishing a season in style. And on Thursday night at the MSUNorthern Feildhouse, the Montana State University-Northern volleyball team did both as the Skylights beat arch rival the University of Great Falls in four games in the regular season finale for both teams. Northern came back from a poor start to beat the Argos by scores of 15- 30, 30-27, 30-22 and 30-18, and in the process, the Skylights picked up their first win over UGF in over two years. "We didn't start off well at all," MSU-N head coach Greg Ryan said. "In fact, that first game was pretty rough. But after I that, I thought you saw our kids respond and take control, and unlike at other times this season, we didn't fall back again. That was really nice to see." Indeed, the Skylights were actually in jeopardy of falling behind 2-0 midway through the second game. The Argos led 19-14 in game two, and things were starting to look pretty bleak. But Northern, which was playing without star freshman Kaylee Bossert, who had to return home to Calgary for a family emergency, stormed back behind the play off Brittany Baker and Jen Rohl, and by the time the comeback was over, the Skylights led 28-27, and they never trailed again. MSU-N went on to win the second game 30-27, finishing it off with a block by Kylie Griffeth, who played well in Bossert's absence. And after squaring the match at 1-1, MSU-N never looked back. "I felt like we were just really consistent after the first game," Ryan said. "We had a lot working against us with the bad start, whit Kaylee being gone, and our serve/receive formation out of sorts a little. "But the kids hung in there and did their jobs," he added. "And after a while, we didn't make many mistakes. We didn't have too many serve errors and we didn't hit many balls out of bounds. Instead, we started going after their weaknesses and we didn't let go of the momentum. Actually, Northern didn't just seize momentum with the game two victory, the Skylights dominated the remainder of the match. In the third game, MSU-N jumped out to a 13-7 lead, en route to a 30-22 win. And in the fourth game, the Skylights got on a tremendous roll, including solid serving stretches by Brittni Sesler and Carlee Hoff. At one point, Hoff served three straight aces during a 6-0 run on her serve. Sesler was also tremendous on that end, as MSU-N cruised to a 30-18 victory in the fourth game and a 3-1 match win. "What's really nice is that after we started poorly, we responded," Ryan said. "That hasn't always been the case with us this season. But tonight, we settled in and started playing consistently well. We beat a really good team that is well-coached in UGF, and that's something the kids should be very proud of." Baker led a balanced MSU-N attack with 13 kills, while Rohl added nine kills and a block. Sesler was outstanding in the match, totaling nine kills, 33 assists, 17 digs and three aces. UGF, which finished the year 7-7 in league play, got a match-high 19 kills and two blocks from Samantha Bull. Bri Goudey chipped in with 37 assists in the loss. With the win, Northern improved to 4-10 in league play, and the Skylights wrapped up sixth place in the conference. But more importantly, Ryan said that his team looks to be peaking at just the right time. "This is a great confidence builder heading into the tournament," Ryan said. "We haven't beaten UGF in a while around here, so I think this win does a lot for us. And while we aren't afraid to play anybody in the tournament, this gives us some more favorable matchups than if we would have finished lower." The Skylights will now prepare for the 2007 Frontier Conference tournament. The tournament will get under way Nov. 8 at the Fortin Center in Billings.