The amazing run the Montana State University-Northern volleyball team is on in 2013 rolled right through Lewiston, Idaho. And in their biggest challenge to date, the Skylights jumped right over another hurdle.
On Saturday afternoon, Northern won for the first time in Lewiston, defeating the Lewis-Clark State Warriors in four sets, by scores of 21-25, 25-15, 25-14 and 31-29. The stunning road win pushed MSU-N to a remarkable 10-0 in the Frontier Conference and 19-4 overall.
Once upon a time, it also seemed like the Skylights would never beat LC State, but after Saturday's win, Northern has beaten the Warriors in three of their last four meetings. And Saturday's win was the first for Northern inside LCSC's Activity Center, which also meant MSU-N swept another road trip as the Skylights breezed by Great Falls last Thursday night.
"This team is something special," MSU-N head coach Bill Huebsch said. "They just continue to do amazing things. There's just something about this team, they just won't go down without a fight. They give it their all every time they go out on the court. And they proved it again this weekend.
"To win at LC is very special," he added. "These kids wanted to go in there and prove they could do it. Prove they could stay on top of this league right now. It's a place we have never had any success, but this team just continues to accomplish more and more and Saturday was another great accomplishment."
Northern had to rally from a set down, and the Skylights did so. In the second set, the Skylights hit an impressive .432, and through a dominating stretch in the third set, MSU-N hit .368.
But, LCSC didn't go quietly into the night, despite trailing the Skylights 2-1. The four set was an epic battle where the team's traded points seemingly forever. The Warriors held the lead at 23-22, then, from that time the two teams exchanged points, tying at 25, 26, 27, 28 and 29 before a service ace by Dayna Jensen gave the Skylights match point at 30-29. And fittingly, Jensen capped off the run with a kill that lifted the Skylights to yet another remarkable win.
"We started a little slow, maybe we were a little tight," Huebsch said. "But the girls responded. They kept their poise. It was a real battle and a great win for us. I couldn't be happier for this team."
Jensen finished with six kills and two aces, while Abby Nicholas had a monster outing. Nicholas totaled 30 kills, three blocks and an ace and 17 digs. Kelsey Williams was also phenomenal for MSU-N. She tallied 21 kills and 16 digs, while MSU-N's defense shined too. Holly Cartwright had 25 of Northern's 88 digs, and the Skylights out-blocked the taller Warriors 9-8.
"LC really battled," Huebsch said. "That fourth set was amazing. It was back and forth, both teams had chances to put it away. There were some long rallies where both teams made some great plays to keep it going. The set just seemed to go on forever. It was a lot of fun to watch.
"And thankfully, our kids just kept their composure. They really fought hard," he continued. "It was a real gutsy performance.
But as thrilling as Saturday's win over LCSC was, the Skylights will have to do it all over again shortly. Northern and LCSC will meet in a rematch Friday night in Havre. The Skylights also host Montana Tech Saturday night.
MSU-Northern def. Lewis-Clark State
21-25, 25-15, 25-14, 31-29
Montana State Northern - Kills: 64 (Abby Nicholas 30). Assists: 59 (Joni Nagy 52). Aces: 4 (four with with 1). Digs: 88 (Holly Cartwright 25). Blocks: 9 (Nicholas 4).
Lewis-Clark State - Kills: 54 (Niurka Toribio 18). Assists: 48 (Ali Hubert 19). Aces: 5 (Toribio 2). Digs: 79 (Marlee Zeman 30). Blocks: 8 (Chelsea Strong 2.5).