For the second straight Frontier Conference match, the Montana State University-Northern Skylights were looking to avoid an emotional letdown after a huge win. And for the second straight match, there was no such letdown.
The Skylights stormed into Dickinson, N.D. on Saturday afternoon and swept the winless Dickinson State Blue Hawks by scores of 25-16, 25-13 and 25-12. The win improved Northern to 3-0 in the Frontier and came on the heels of an emphatic sweep at Rocky Mountain College on Thursday night in Billings.
The finals core indicated an easy win Saturday afternoon, but the start to the match was anything but. DSU came out strong, flustered MSU-N’s offense a little, and led 10-8 early in the first set. From there however, the Skylights went on a 6-0 run and never trailed again in the entire match.
“Dickinson defended very well, dug up a lot of balls and they were scrappy,” MSU-N head coach Bill Huebsch said. “So we had to play a little smarter and we finally quit making a few unforced errors and I think that was the difference. We were able to get our offense in rhythm and run our offense the way we are used to.”
The Skylights put together a near-perfect performance. Out of 98 total attempts, the Skylights had a mere nine hitting errors. Seniors Kelsey Williams and Abby Nicholas led the way for Northern. Williams had 14 kills, nine digs and an ace, while Nicholas recorded 10 kills, 10 digs and an ace. Dayna Jensen chipped in with six kills and an ace, while Joni Nagy had 29 assists.
MSU-N was again very sharp defensively, just as it was at Rocky on Thursday night. The Skylights held DSU to an abysmal .045 hitting percentage, while Sydney Stolearcius had 11 digs and Holly Cartwright chipped in with 10. Nicholas had Northern’s lone solo block in the short and quick win.
“We did some good things,” Huebsch said. “I thought as the match went on, our defense got better and better and we started really limiting their points. I thought we also hit much better and in the third set, we cleaned up our serving errors some. So I was pleased with that.”
And with a pair of three-set sweeps on the road, Northern put itself in a prime position as it enters the heart of its Frontier Conference schedule. The Skylights are 3-0 in league play and 12-4 overall. Only Lewis-Clark State has a better conference record at 4-0, and the Skylights are now a full match clear of RMC heading into their second home stand of the season.
“This team continues to amaze me,” Huebsch said. “Just when I think we’ve already accomplished so much, we got out and accomplish more and more. And our win at Rocky was a great example of that. So this was a great weekend. It was a great road trip for us.”
Northern will host UM-Western Thursday night at 7 p.m. at the Armory Gymnasium. The Skylights remain at home to face Westminster College Saturday at 2 p.m.
Skylights def. Dickinson State
25-16, 25-13, 25-12
Kills: MSU-N, Kelsey Williams 14, Abby Nicholas 10, Dayna Jensen 6, Erin Jensen 5, Joni Nagy 2, Alexis Nelson 2, Haley Russell 1, Sydney Stolearcius 1, Annie Ferris 1. DSU, Melissa Avila 7, Kelly O’Connor 6, Linaya Schroeder 3, Aly Schieno 2, Natasha Malana 1.; Blocks: MSU-N, Nicholas 1. DSU, none.; Aces: MSU-N, D. Jensen 1, Williams 1, Nicholas 1. DSU, none.; Digs: MSU-N, Stolearcius 11, Nicholas 10, Holly Cartwright 10, Nagy 9, Williams 9, D. Jensen 4, Nelson 1. DSU, Avila 12, Malana 12, O’Connor 9, Morgan Lutz 3, Maggie Rauser 3, Tayler Weakley 2, Aly Schieno 1, Schroeder 1, Meghan Meyer 1, Whitney Weidow 1.; Assists: MSU-N, Nagy 29, Russell 1, Cartwright 1, D. Jensen 1, Williams 1, Nicholas 1. DSU, Lutz 11, O’Connor 4, Malana 1.