The Bears unofficially opened their 2017 campaign with a 3-1 exhibition victory over the University of Wyoming. The teams traded set wins in the early going, but Northern Colorado became the more consistent team in the later sets and got a strong performance from senior Alex Kloehn to help seal the victory.
Set 1 was close early, but the Bears kept just ahead of Wyoming’s pace and strung together four of five points to lead 16-10, at which point Wyoming called a timeout in an attempt to stop the momentum. After the timeout, Northern Colorado continued to play well at the net and took a 19-11 lead. Kourtney Lockey served for the set at 24-14, but lost a long point. Then Wyoming’s Lily Austin hit a long serve out of bounds to give the Bears the edge, 25-15.
Wyoming came back with a strong start to the second set, jumping out to a 9-6 lead and forcing the Bears to call their first timeout. The Bears could not muster a comeback, though, after trailing 21-12. Hailey McArdle served with Wyoming leading 24-16 but her serve hit the top of the net as it went over, giving the Bears an easier chance to put it away. UNC also won the next pair of points but the lead was too great to overcome and the Cowgirls won, 25-17.
The third set was tied at 10, but the Bears won seven of the next eight points to go up 17-11. Leading 24-18, Michaela Nelson served and Kloehn closed it out with a kill, assisted by Daisy Schultz. In the fourth set, Northern Colorado was struggling to find rhythm and called a timeout trailing 8-3. After the regroup, the Bears rebounded and kept the game within reach until a solo block by Taylor Muff tied the game at 14-14. The teams traded points until the Bears separated themselves to lead 22-19, eventually gaining match point after another Muff block. They closed out the final set 25-20.
Kloehn played well for the Bears and led all players with 14 kills. Lockey also added 12 kills, while sophomore Sarah Wyland and Kloehn had four blocks each, and Muff added two solo blocks in the final set to help the Bears keep the momentum in the match. Madi Fields led all players with 17 digs and Taylor Els led the Bears in that statistic with 14.
“The match didn’t flow or look pretty but we were able to play gritty at times and get the win,” said coach Lindsey Oates. “Going forward, we will be looking for our veteran players to step up and do even more. We certainly have a lot of room for improvement but this was a good match for us because (Wyoming) presented some things we haven’t dealt with before.”
The Bears will be back in action at Bank of Colorado Arena when the regular season begins with a match against Central Florida on August 25.