The halfway point of the Frontier Conference volleyball season has come and gone. And with a week of rest, the league will resume play this weekend, and in the process, start the push towards the Frontier tournament and postseason glory.
The first half of the season was full of fulfilled expectations and some big surprises.
The latter was perhaps the best story of the first two weeks of the season – the start by the Montana State University-Northern Skylights. The Skylights had a total of nine wins between 2008 and the start of the 2010 season. But in just three weeks, they matched that total, starting the year with an impressive 9-3 mark. MSU-N also got off to a quick 2-0 start in league play with its first road sweep in a long, long time.
Still, the Skylights have endured some growing pains along the way. Northern heads into the second half of the season having lost five straight conference matches. But MSU-N also has six of its last eight matches of the regular season at home, and having seen what the Skylights have done through the first two months of the season, there’s reason to believe MSU-N will be a factor in the second half.
The fulfilled expectations are from Lewis-Clark State and Carroll College. Going into the second half of the season, the Warriors are a perfect 7-0 in league play and an impressive 17-1 overall. LC State is ranked 11th in the country, and the Warriors are not just pushing for another league title, but are hoping to make a deep run in the NAIA’s postseason.
Carroll (5-2, 14-5), which went to the regional tournament a year ago, is also rolling. Despite key losses to graduation, the Saints haven’t missed a beat and are looking to take things even further this year.
But the Saints have competition at the top of the league standings.
Rocky Mountain College (5-2, 14-5) enters the second half of the season on a five-match winning streak, and the Bears have shown they have what it takes to stay at the top of the league this season.
And while the regular season doesn’t determine what happens to a team’s postseason fate, seeding for the Frontier tourney is at a premium. So staying out of the seventh and eighth-place spots is paramount for teams, and that will make the second half of the year a dogfight.
UM-Western has struggled again and sits at 0-7 in league play. But after that, fourth place through seventh place could be wide open and the race for positioning will be on over the next four weeks.
MSU-N, the University of Great Falls, Westminster College and Montana Tech all seem to be very evenly matched and those head-to-head matches over the next month will likely decide where teams fall when they get to Lewiston, Idaho and the Frontier tourney Nov. 12-13.
On an individual level, few players in the league have been as dominant this season as LC State’s Deddiy Alimeaata or Westminster’s Clotile Harris. Harris leads the league in kills with 215, while LC’s Nicole Graybeal leads in blocks with 86.
Northern has senior Kaylee Bossert sitting at fourth in kills with 185 and she ranks sixth in the league in hitting percentage. Jordan Merrill is second in the league in assists with 553, and Bossert is fifth in blocks with 61. Bossert also leads the Skylights in total digs with 126.
MSU-N begins the second half of the season at home with matches against Montana Tech on Friday night and Western on Saturday night.