After two weeks of stiff competition, the Montana State University-Northern volleyball team knew things were about to get even more difficult. And the Skylights knew a trip to Florida would have to be all business.
And that’s exactly what the Skylights handled, they handled their business by going 3-1 at the Embry-Riddle University Labor Day Volleyball Tournament Friday-Saturday in Daytona Beach, Fla. Northern beat the University of Mobile and Ashford University of Iowa Friday, then beat the University of Northwest Ohio Saturday morning before falling to nationally ranked Madonna Saturday afternoon.
With the three wins in Florida, MSU-N improved 7-4 on the season, with just two matches left before Frontier Conference play begins.
And the wins didn’t come easy as Embry-Riddle, an NAIA powerhouse itself, put together an outstanding field in Florida.
Right off the bat Friday, the Skylights had to go five sets in order to upend the University of Mobile of Alabama. Northern won the dramatic fifth set by a score of 19-17, while the Skylights conquered the match by scores of 25-19, 20-25, 23-25, 25-17 and 19-17. MSU-N was down 2-1 in the match, but answered the call by stomping Mobile in the fourth set. In the fifth, it was back-and-forth all the way, before the Skylights prevailed in the marathon.
In the exciting win over the Rams, Abby Nicholas totaled an astounding 28 kills, while Kelsey Williams added a career-high 22. Northern had 69 kills in all, as well as a remarkable 96 digs. Joni Nagy totaled 18 digs, 56 assists and two aces, while Holly Cartwright had 17 digs, Williams, Nicholas and Sydney Stolearcius each had 15 and Dayna Jensen had 10. Nicholas also had two aces and one block.
And while MSU-N might have been tired after its gut-wrenching win over the Rams, the Skylights returned Friday to beat Ashford of Iowa by scores of 25-23, 25-27, 25-12 and 25-22. In that win, Nicholas had 20 kills and a block, while Williams totaled 16 kills, three aces and a block. Jensen added 13 kills, while Nagy had 51 assists and 15 digs. Cartwright totaled 29 digs in a great defensive effort, while Williams had 19 digs and Nicholas 16.
`Northern pulled off two hard-fought wins Friday, but the battle was far from over. Saturday morning, the Skylights were again tested, but beat Northwest Ohio in four sets by scores of 25-15, 25-27, 25-22 and 25-21. Nicholas and Williams again led the way, combining for 36 kills, with 18 each. Jensen added 13 kills, while Nagy had 45 assists. Nagy and Erin Jensen each had a solo block, while Cartwright paced the serve-receive with 30 digs.
Northern closed out the trip to Florida with a sweep at the hands of 11th-ranked Madonna. MSU-N fell to the NAIA powerhouse by scores of 25-15, 25-18 and 25-23. Nicholas led the offense with 12 kills, while Williams had 10. Dayna Jensen served up MSU-N’s only ace, while Cartwright totaled 16 digs, though Madonna was in full control on both sides of the net from start to finish.
The Skylights will play two more non-conference matches before their Frontier and home opener against Carroll College Sept. 13 in Havre. Saturday, MSU-N is at the Carroll/UGF Tournament in Great Falls for matches against NCAA Division II rivals Minot State and the University of Mary.