Home matches against a nationally-ranked rival don’t get any bigger than Friday’s Frontier Conference volleyball match between the Montana State University-Northern Skylights and the Carroll College Fighting Saints.
Unfortunately, Northern’s return to the MSU-Northern Gymnasium wasn’t the one the Skylights were looking for. No. 23 Carroll controlled things from the first ball of the night and wound up sweeping the Skylights by scores of 25-22, 25-19 and 25-20. The match was close throughout, but the Saints were on top of things in the critical points, while Northern was nearly the better team on the stat sheet.
“When you look at the stats against Carroll, with the exception of blocks, we outplayed them (Saints,” Northern head coach Bill Huebsch said. “That’s not to take anything away from either team we played this weekend, because they are both really good teams, but in the Carroll match, we played really well at times.
“We really did play a good match,” Huebsch continued. “But we also gave away 24 unforced errors and had seven missed serves. That’s 31 points we gave them and against good teams you just can’t make that many errors and expect to be successful.”
And the Skylights had their chances to be successful on Friday night.
The opening set was a seesaw affair with 13 ties several lead changes. Northern was on early with Kelsey Williams and Ashley Lawson swinging well and putting balls away. Sierra Diehl and Victoria Polo also made several key plays in the middle as the Skylights led 14-11. But the Saints overtook Northern for good on a Kristin Telin kill at 19-18, and while Northern battled to the end, Carroll edged out the first set.
And the Saints would trail just two more times the entire night.
In the second set, Carroll ripped off an early 6-0 run and led 7-3. Northern rebounded with kills from Williams and Hillary Isleifson and some excellent defense in the back row. But after a Samantha Hutcheson tip kill to pull Northern to 19-17, the Saints gave up just two more points the rest of the way.
Northern did try to rally early in the third set, leading twice in the first 10 points. But by then, the errors were mounting and Carroll was rolling. A 9-1 Saints’ run gave them a commanding 17-11 lead in the third set, and while Northern did mount a charge, it wasn’t enough to push the Skylights through.
“A couple of things that really hurt is against Carroll was, we didn’t do a good job of establishing a presence at the net,” Huebsch said. “Two blocks against a team that big is not going to get it done. And it also seemed like at times, right when we could have really grabbed momentum, we made some really bad unforced errors. Too many errors and mistakes, that really summed up the weekend for us.”
The Saints did out-hit the Skylights but not by much. Northern did have three more kills than Carroll with Isleifson leading the way in that category with 10. She also had 19 assists and 10 digs for a strong all-around match. Lawson, Diehl and Hutcheson finished the night with six kills apiece, while Holly Cartwright had 10 digs. Carroll was led by Telin’s nine kills.
The loss, coupled with Saturday’s loss to Rocky Mountain College dropped MSU-N to 3-4 in conference play at the halfway point in the season. MSU-N has a bye week this week, before hitting the road for matches at UM-Western on Oct. 15 and Montana Tech on Oct. 16.
Carroll sweeps Northern
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Carroll def. MSU-Northern
25-22, 25-19, 25-20
CC — Kills 35 (Kristin Telin 9), Assists 31 (Caitlin Tocci 20), Aces 3 (Three with one each), Digs 49 (Maureen Frauenholtz 12), Blocks 10 (Markki Otteson 2).
MSU-N — Kills 38 (Hillary Isleifson 10, Sierra Diehl 6, Samantha Hutcheson 6, Ashley Lawson 6), Assists 36 (Hillary Isleifson 19, Nahe Keanaaina 15), Aces 2 (two with one each), Digs 52 (Holly Cartwright 16), Blocks 2 (Sierra Diehl 1).