By Ryan Divish
Montana State University-Northern head volleyball coach Lisa Handley knew that the Westminster Griffins were a lot like her team in that have the potential to play extremely well one night and mistake prone the next.
Unfortunately for Handley and the Skylights, Westminster picked Friday night to play well. The Griffins defeated Northern, 30-23, 30-26, 22-30, 30-22, in Salt Lake City to earn their first Frontier conference win of the season.
"Since they've been in the conference that is the best I've ever seen them play," Handley said.
But it wasn't just Westminster's stellar play, it was also the tentative play of the Skylights. Instead of the aggressiveness that Handley sees so often practice, she saw something else.
"They all had that scared look in their eyes," Handley said. "The look that said, Don't serve it to me, don't set it to me'".
As the cliche goes, the Skylights were playing not to lose, instead of playing to win. In volleyball, that attitude is usually evident in the serve-receive game. And for Northern it was very true.
Westminster served 20 aces, and when Northern did receive the serve the passes weren't where they should be.
"We started getting frustrated," Handley said. "We couldn't get a pass up."
Westminster, 1-4 in the conference and 3-11 overall, was led by Sasha Smith with 17 kills and five blocks in the match. Liz Thompson and Jenni Sayler combined for 24 kills, while Thompson had eight aces.
Northern was led by Jasmine Mitchell with 10 kills, Emmy Olson had 12 digs and four aces.
The loss was pretty frustrating for both Handley and her team. The Skylights are still fighting through the inconsistency that come with being an inexperience team.
"They're disappointed with themselves and the way they played," Handley said. "I'm disappointed with them for not playing up to their capabilities. Hopefully, this is a wake-up call for us."
Northern will be in action at home this weekend when they take on Rocky Mountain College on Friday and Carroll College on Saturday as part of Northern's homecoming festivities.