MSU-Northern spikers finish the nonconference season with wins over Mary and Minot
One weekend is all that stood between the Montana State University-Northern volleyball team and a Frontier Conference opening match against the Carroll College Fighting Saints. But that weekend included two matches against quality NCAA Division II opponents.
And though Northern was moved up a level in competition at the UGF/Carroll Tournament Saturday in Great Falls, the Skylights proved to be the dominant team. Saturday at the McLaughlin Center, MSU-N swept the University of Mary by scores of 25-19, 25-14 and 25-20. MSU-N than put a bow on the non-conference season by beating a tough Minot State squad by scores of 22-25, 25-19, 25-21 and 25-20.
The two wins pushed MSU-N’s record in non-conference play to 9-4, and sends the Skylights into Friday night’s home-opener with some powerful momentum.
“It went really well this weekend,” Northern head coach Bill Huebsch said. “I thought we probably played our best two matches of the preseason from start to finish. It was really nice too, because we won twice, but more importantly, I thought we played better and improved on some things, and that’s what I was really hoping to see.”
The Skylights came out and dominated the Marauders, a DII program from Bismark, N.D. MSU-N racked up kills, had just 11 errors and hit an astounding .377 for the match. In a quick match, MSU-N also had five blocks, something Huebsch really needed his team to improve upon after its trip to Florida last week.
"I felt like our presence at the net, in both matches was much better,” Huebsch said. “I thought we blocked and redirected and deflected a lot more balls this weekend. And that’s a credit to how hard our girls worked on that this week in practice. So while it was nice to get two more wins, I was more pleased with the improvements that we made.”
Against Mary, Kelsey Williams totaled 16 kills and two aces, while Abby Nicholas added eight kills and a block. Sisters Dayna and Erin Jensen combined for 11 more kills, while Holly Cartwright scooped up 16 digs and Joni Nagy had 35 assists.
Williams was again the catalyst in Northern’s four-set win over a tough team from Minot State. Despite dropping the first set, the Skylights were in control most of the way, with Williams totaling 14 kills and four of MSU-N’s season-high 10 aces. Nicholas added 12 kills and 10 digs, while Erin Jensen chipped in with a career-high 10 kills and Dayna Jensen had nine. Nagy had 45 assists and 10 digs, while Cartwright added three aces to her 12 digs. Dayna Jensen also served up three aces, while Northern tallied 10 team blocks.
And closing out the non-conference schedule with two emphatic wins gives the Skylights a lot to be confident about heading into the Frontier Conference season, which starts Friday night against the nationally-ranked Saints at the Armory Gymnasium.
“It was good to see us play so well,” Huebsch said. “It was fun to watch. We had a lot of kids step up and play really well in both matches.
“It’s been a good non-conference season,” he added. “I think we achieved what we set out to do which was improve every day, and play as many tough teams as we could to prepare us for our conference. I think the kids feel good about what they’ve done so far and I know they’re very excited to play Carroll. They’re really looking forward to this match and to playing at home in front of our fans for the first time. It’s going to be a really exciting night.”
Friday night’s Frontier Conference showdown between the Skylights and Fighting Saints (7-7) will begin at 7 p.m. at the Armory Gymnasium. MSU-N also has home matches against UM-Western Sept. 26 and Westminster College Sept. 28.
Northern def. Minot State
22-25, 25-19, 25-21, 25-20
Minot State — Kills: 50 (Mallory Sall 13). Assists: 50 (Emily Byrne 39). Aces: 2 (Ashley Heavenor, Lauren Dunkle). Digs: 53 (Jen Dixon 11, Sall 11, Alexis Boutin 11). Blocks: 5 (Sara Frisen 2.5).
Montana State Northern — Kills: 49 (Kelsey Williams 14). Assists: 49 (Joni Nagy 45). Aces: 10 (Williams 4). Digs: 44 (Holly Cartwright 12). Blocks: 8 (Erin Jensen 4).
Northern def. Mary
25-19, 25-14, 25-20
University of Mary — Kills: 30 (Alexis Jacobs 8). Assists: 30 (Janelle Finkbeiner 18). Aces: 1 (Emily Turnowski). Digs: 35 (Alex Brown 12). Blocks: 4 (Three with one).
Montana State Northern — Kills: 40 (Kelsey Williams 16). Assists: 40 (Joni Nagy 35). Aces: 3 (Dayna Jensen 2). Digs: 36 (Holly Cartwright 15). Blocks: 5 (Nelson 2).