If the Montana State University-Northern volleyball team was still searching for a complete match this season, the Skylights finally found at home.
On Friday night at the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse in Havre, the Skylights dismantled the University of Great Falls in an impressive three-game sweep by scores of 25-12, 25-19 and 25-13. The win pushed Northern to 4-6 in the Frontier Conference and 12-10 overall.
But perhaps more importantly, it showed the team and head coach Bill Huebsch just what its capable of when things are clicking – and the Skylights did it against a stellar UGF team which beat Northern in four games last month in Great Falls.
“We’ve played this well in practice, we’ve done the things we did well tonight all year in practice,” Huebsch said. “So it was really nice to see us go out there and show everybody else what we’re capable of. It was just a great all-around match for us.”
The start has been crucial to Northern’s success this season, and the Skylights wasted little time serving notice against the Argos. Northern’s offense got going right away with early kills from Brittany Baker and Tasha Dyrland, and after a 10-1 run, the Skylights took command of the first game and never let go.
And while most in college matches, it’s the third set which is always pivotal, on Friday night, it was the Skylights’ perseverance in the second set which proved to be the difference. Northern fell behind several times in the second set, and with UGF leading 16-15 and the set hanging in the balance, the Skylights rose to the occasion and didn’t fold.
For the second time on the night, MSU-N went on a run behind Baker’s serve, and five points later, the Skylights were back in front 22-18. Kaylee Bossert added a key block, then finished the set off with a kill and an ace. Being able to overtake the Argos in the critical second game gave the Skylights an insurmountable 2-1 lead.
“I think there are several things that stand out,” Huebsch said. “Obviously, the intensity we played with in the first set was huge. We came out firing and hit .421 which is a remarkable number. Brittany Baker’s performance on the service line was also huge. And offensively, we were just very consistent. Kaylee Bossert, Paige Richardson and Tasha Dyrland all hit very well, and Jordan Merrill did an outstanding job running things for us.
“But the second set, the way we played when we were down was also critical,” he added. “UGF made some good adjustments as Arunas (Duda) always does and they got it going there in the second set. But our kids responded. Baker got going again on her serve and we just stayed consistent. Being able to overcome in that situation was big for this team and it was something that really enabled us to go on and put them (Argos) away. I’m just really proud of every player who stepped on the floor for us tonight."
A team effort indeed. Bossert led a balanced Skylights' attack with 10 kills, three aces and three of Northern’s match-high eight solo blocks. Richardson and Dyrland added six kills each while Baker had five kills three aces and three digs. Elise Davis was also outstanding at the net with three blocks of her own, while Merrill ran Northern’s offense to perfection, dishing out 23 assists.
But as well as the Skylights served and attacked on offense, defense also played a central role in Friday night’s win. UGF hit .011 for the night and no Argo reached double digits in kills. Northern’s serve-receive and passing was outstanding, as was its play in the back row, especially former Blue Pony Holly Cartwright, who led the Skylights with 10 digs, several coming on rally-saving dives.
“Our defense was outstanding tonight,” Huebsch said. “We had several kids make outstanding saves and when you play like that on defense, it just makes what you’re trying to do offensively that much easier. It was just a great effort by everybody who played tonight. Everyone did something to contribute.”
And it wasn’t just Northern's physical play which stood out. Bossert, who’s having an all-american senior season, said that it was the Skylights’ mental toughness which played a big role.
“I think we played a lot more inspired tonight,” Bossert said. “We didn’t do that for the whole match against them in Great Falls, but everybody really played with a lot of emotion tonight and that carried us. It was a great match for us, we were very consistent tonight and it showed because we really played well in all three sets.”
With back-to-back wins in tow, the Skylights will embark on their final road trip of the regular season this week. The Skylights travel to Lewis-Clark State on Thursday night and Westminster College on Saturday.