There’s no question, over the last four years, Bill Huebsch and the Montana State University-Northern volleyball team have been on a climb. It’s a climb up to new heights, and it’s one the Skylights have been in together.
Now, three of those Sky
lights who have had a profound impact on the journey will play their final home matches of their careers as Northern takes on UM-Western tonight and Westminster College on Saturday.
“They’ve been a great group to coach,” Huebsch, who’s in his fourth year said of his senior class. “One thing is, they all three have a real passion for volleyball. They truly love the sport. And because of that, I think they really work hard each and every day. They’ve been that way since they got here.”
It seems like Hillary Isleifson, Victoria Polo and Karyssa Bowron have all been at Northern a long time, but really, it also seems like they just got here.
All three were transfers, with Isleifson and Polo playing at Northern for just two years.
Isleifson came to Northern last fall from Oklahoma Panhandle State, and the 6-0 standout from Carlyle, Saskatchewan had an immediate impact. As a junior she earned First Team Frontier All-Conference honors, the first MSU-N player to do so in quite some time. And that momentum carried over into 2012, where she’s totaled 233 kills, 141 digs and is amongst the Frontier leaders in hitting percentage and serving.
“Hill (Isleifson) has been rock steady for two years for us,” Huebsch said. “She’s been everything we hoped she would and more. Her versatility has been huge. She’s played wherever we asked her to and she’s done very well no matter where that was. She’s been a great leader, a great team captain and she’s set a very good example for our younger players on how this game is played, both on and off the court. We’re really going to miss her when it’s all over.”
Polo, a 6-2 middle blocker from Huntington Beach, Calif., has given the Skylights something they were lacking, a tall presence in the middle. And she’s also given them a veteran in the middle over the last two seasons. And it’s no coincidence that with her arrival to the program a year ago, Northern has been a much better team in the front row. Polo is 11th in the Frontier this season with 51 total blocks.
“She’s really improved,” Huebsch said of Polo. “She’s gotten stronger and more confident during her time here. She is a hard worker, who can really dictate play at the net. And she’s done a lot more of that for us this year. She goes out and gets the job done and she’s been a huge key to our success over the last two years.”
Bowron, a defensive specialist from Cochrane, Alberta has also given the Skylights a spark over the last three seasons. She’s an excellent defender in the back row, but she can also get up and defend the net as well.
“Karyssa has been an important part of our success,” Huebsch said. “She works hard, she’s a very intelligent player who understand the game as well as anybody.
“That’s the thing about all three seniors,” he added. “They all have worked really hard in their time here and they’ve shown the younger players what it takes to improve. That’s one of the many ways this group has really impacted our program and they will all be missed.”
No doubt Isleifson, Polo and Bowron will be missed. From the start of the 2011 season until tonight’s match against Western, Northern has won 26 matches and the Skylights have 15 conference wins. Northern hasn’t had a two-year stretch like that in a long time, and it’s not a coincidence that it really got going just as this year’s senior class did.
“They’ve been great to coach, great to work with,” Huebsch said. “They’ve all been great for our program and have been a big part of the success we’ve had recently. We’re going to miss them.”
Northern’s senior class will be honored before the start of Saturday’s match between the Skylights and Westminster, which takes place at 2 p.m. at the Armory Gymnasium. The Skylights take on the UM-Western Bulldogs tonight at 7 in Havre.