Sometimes, when you’re on a roll, when that roll comes to an end, it comes in a devastating way.
That’s what happened to the roll the Montana State University-Northern volleyball team was on when they went into the McLaughlin Center in Great Falls and got steam rolled by the University of Great Falls Argos in three sets Thursday night. All three sets were tightly contested and the Skylights had chances to win them all, but in the end, the Argos won by scores of 25-23, 26-24 and 25-21, ending Northern’s high from last week’s dramatic win over Lewis-Clark State.
The stats showed the Skylights hung tough in hitting percentage, serving and blocking, but total kills and on defense is where the Argos made the biggest difference. UGF had 55 kills to Northern’s 31 and the Argos totaled 56 digs to MSU-N’s 31. The Skylights hit in the positive but didn’t terminate the ball enough as only one player reached double digits in kills, and no players racked up more than six digs on the night.
Another difference for UGF was junior Kelsey Van Uden. Before Thursday night’s match, Northern head coach Bill Huebsch said that while the Skylights weren’t going to shut Van Uden down, they certainly needed to limit the Frontier’s leader in kills. But just the opposite happened as Van Uden was all over the court. She totaled a match-high 19 kills, while also racking up 17 digs, three aces and a block.
And Van Uden made the difference when it mattered most. Both the first and second sets were right down to the wire, but Van Uden, one of the best offensive players in the NAIA came up big and delivered her team knockout blows. Northern continued to battle in the third, but the raucous UGF crowd and the large deficit was too much to overcome.
Abby Nicholas led the Skylights with 13 kills, once and one block. Kelsey Williams also had six kills and three aces, while Shayla Bly had 12 assists. In the kill department, after Nicholas and Williams, no Northern player had more than three, and the Skylights came in hitting third-best in the Frontier Conference.
The loss drops Northern out of a first-place tie with Lewis-Clark State heading into Saturday’s rematch in Lewiston, Idaho. The Skylights are now 6-2 in the Frontier and 12-10 overall, while UGF improved to 4-4 in league play and 13-9 overall. Northern and UGF will met again next Friday night in Havre.
Meanwhile, the Skylights will look to regroup when they take on the Warriors at 2 p.m. on Saturday in Lewiston.
Great Falls def. MSU-Northern
25-23, 26-24, 25-21
MSU-N — Kills 31 (Abby Nicholas 13, Kelsey Williams 6), Assists 27 (Shayla Bly 12), Aces 6 (Williams 3), Digs 31 (Joni Nagy 6), Blocks 5 (Nicholas 1, Victoria Polo 1).
UGF — Kills 55 (K. Van Uden 19), Assists 53 (K. Adams 29), Aces 3 (Van Uden 3), Digs 56 (Van Uden 17, J. Prescott 17), Blocks 6 (Van Uden 1, A. McEwan 1).