By Heidi Boyum
The Montana State University-Northern Skylight volleyball team is looking to combine strong front row play with successful service receive on the same night to take down ninth-ranked NAIA Lewis and Clark on Friday.
The Skylights back row struggled against Rocky Mountain College last Thursday but players compensated at the net, hitting .353 as a team. In their match against Carroll on Friday, the Skylights lacked team communication, Skylight coach Lisa Handley said.
"We're right at that hump in the season where we should be coming together as a team but unfortunately things have been moving the other way," Handley said. "We are a championship team in progress, but until we're willing to grow closer as a team and play for each other we're not there yet."
The Skylights are down one player due to injury. Freshman right-side hitter Josey Walterskirchen is struggling with back problems and her absence is felt.
"Josey brings a lot of enthusiasm to the team, both in practice and on the court," said Handley. "We miss having her in practice."
The Skylights continue to fight back though. Handley thoroughly drilled the team this week, specifically in blocking and serve receiving, as they prepare to face Lewis and Clark Friday and Westminster on Saturday.
"Lewis and Clark is always a hard-swinging, hard-hitting team that digs and serves well," said Handley. "They're just consistent the whole way around."
In order to beat Lewis and Clark, the Skylights cannot have a lot of unforced errors and need to get their hands on the ball, blocking-wise, Handley said.
In specific preparation for the Lewis and Clark match, the Skylights switched from rotation to read defense and are practicing a three-middle, or triangular, offense.
"Westminster is going to be a lot tougher than people think," said Handley. "They took Lewis and Clark to four games."
Handley attributes Westminster's strength to Division I transfers who were reserves for schools like BYU.
Saturday will mark the first match of the season between Westminster and the Skylights. They were scheduled to play earlier this season, but because of the terrorist attacks, did not make the Sept. 13 trip down to Salt Lake City.
Though their defense and offense have been up and down on opposite nights, Handley is confident in the Skylight's ability to compete in both matches this weekend.
"If we can bring it all together at the same time, we'll be there," Handley said.
The Skylights play ninth-ranked Lewis and Clark on Friday at 7 p.m. As part of a special promotion encouraging families to attend the Westminster match together, a family of four can get in, enjoy hot dogs, soda and popcorn, and have opportunities to participate in prize give-aways for only $20.