George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor firstname.lastname@example.org
On Friday night, all that stood between the Montana State University- Northern volleyball team and its first win was 15 points. And while the Skylights couldn't get to 15 points first at home against Montana Tech, they made sure the same thing wasn't going to happen to them again on Saturday against UM-Western. Having already gone to a fifth game against Tech at home on Friday, the Skylights found themselves locked in a fifth-game battle with the Bulldogs on Saturday night at the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse, and the second time around, the Skylights were finally able to close the door, beating Western 15-10 in the fi- nal game to earn their first win of 2008. "That's the monkey off our back," MSU-N first-year coach Steve Leggitt said. "Tonight was the first time we have went out as a team and stuck to our gameplan. Everyone accepted their roles and played together as a team for five games, and you can see the results when we do that." MSU-N had to fight all the way to the end all weekend to get that elusive first victory. After getting hot in the middle of the match against Western, the Skylights faltered in the fourth game. MSU-N was down 1-0 to the Bulldogs, but Taya Tokarski and Jen Rohl brought the Skylights roaring back. Tokarski got on a roll in the third game as Northern won 25-21 to even the match at 1-1. In game three, it was Brittany Baker's turn. Baker had five straight kills during a 7-0 MSU-N run in game three, a game the Skylights eventually won going away, 25-20. But Northern is youthful, and after dropping the fourth game 25-16 to the Bulldogs, the Skylights had to rally. And rally they did. Rohl was strong up front, and Baker continued to be the go-to hitter for Northern in the decisive fifth game. The Skylights fell behind 7-6 in the final game, but Baker sparked a 5-0 run to help MSU-N take the lead, and Kaylee Bossert finished the match off with a block and a kill. "It feels really good to get this win," Bossert said. "This was a total team win. We won tonight because of our team play, our consistency and just following through on what we were trying to do. We needed this win tonight and it was just an all-around great team win." Said Leggitt: "I was really pleased with every game except the fourth tonight. But overall, the kids played really well and they did the necessary things in order to win. I am very happy for these kids because they stuck to the gameplan and we showed what we can do when we play like that." Tokarski, who is just getting into form, had a monster match for the Skylights. She racked up match highs in kills, 23, and digs, 18. Baker was also on fire, totaling 12 kills and a block, while Bossert was her usual consistent self with 10 kills, four digs and an ace. "The scary thing is that we're only seeing about 60 percent of what Taya Tokarski can do," Leggitt said. "But she had a great match offensively and defensively. Jen Rohl also came up big. She didn't have a lot of kills, but the ones she did were at very critical teams. But again, this was a total team effort. We played everybody who dressed out tonight and they all contributed to this win." MSU-N was close to getting that first win the night before against Tech. The Skylights dropped the first two games by scores of 25-18 and 25-9 and were behind 14-2 in the third game. But behind Baker and Bossert, Northern rallied, overcame the 12-point deficit in game three, won 29-27 and from there, the Skylights were off and running. MSU-N took game four 25-17, but ran out of gas in the decisive fifth game. "I was pleased with a lot of what we did against Tech," Leggitt said. "To be down and respond like we did was a sign that we knew things were headed in the right direction. Those comebacks we made were very encouraging and I'm proud of these kids for that. And we really did start to play well during that stretch." Like she was on Saturday night, Baker was phenomonal against the Orediggers as well. She totaled 16 kills, 11 digs and two aces in the close loss. Bossert also had 10 kills and eight digs, while Rohl chipped in with five kills, two digs and a solo block. The slpit with Tech and Western moves MSU-N's record to 1-5 in the Frontier Conference and 1-14 overall as the Skylights have reached the halfway point of the regular season. And the Skylights can now take on the rest of the season with a new confidence. "I think this gives us a lot of confidence and momentum," Bossert said. "Everyone contributed to this win, and we know when we do that, we can win now. There's a lot of season left too, and we're excited about the rest of the season and seeing what we can do." The Skylights will remain at home on Friday and Saturday to host the annual Pepsi-Northern Classic.