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Northern Colorado Bears volleyball to face University of North Dakota Friday in Big Sky playoffs

By Rachel Turnock
On November 20, 2012

The waiting game is over for the UNC volleyball team as the Big Sky Conference Championship tournament kicks off Friday at Butler- Hancock Sports Pavilion. This will mark the first time the University of Northern Colorado will host the tournament.

The Bears (21-10, 14-6 Big Sky) will face the University of North Dakota (15-16, 10-10) for their first match of the tournament. UNC is ranked fourth and North Dakota is ranked fifth at the conclusion of the regular season. UNC has never placed below fifth for the regular season since entering the conference and has finished in a tie for third, outright second, tied for first and outright first from 2008-11, respectively.

For the last regular season match, UNC traveled to NAU to face the Lumberjacks. The Bears took down Northern Arizona (23-6, 15-5) Saturday with a 3-0 win, making it the first victory against a team higher in standings. Head coach Lyndsey Oates talked about how that win will be used as an advantage for the tournament.

"We needed that confidence boost to show that we can beat good teams, and to beat them in that fashion that we did - to sweep them - and really control the match was a big confidence boost," Oates said.

Hosting the Big Sky tournament for the first time ever can bring a lot of emotions to the Bears, especially for the seniors on the team.

"I'm so excited to be able to finish my career on this home floor and go out with a win and hopefully make it to the NCAA, and it's really fortunate and really exciting," senior setter Marissa Hughes said.

Hughes has been a part of the Big Sky tournament throughout her four-year career at UNC, including two trips to the NCAA Tournament, one in 2009 and one last season. For sophomore outside hitter Tambre Haddock, this will be her second time participating in the conference tournament.

"We just have to stay focused and we have to stay feisty and build off of this weekend, instead of going down," Haddock said.

Haddock had a strong match against NAU with 11 kills and a .391 attack percentage. Her weekend performance was the fuel behind the Big Sky naming her the Player of the Week for the second time this season.

Staying focused is something the Bears are really trying to do in order to come out strong in the tournament.

"It's exciting to get to host - especially as a four seed, we need every advantage we can get - and that home court advantage is going to be huge," Oates said. "We're comfortable on this home court, and we've been good at home and I like how we're playing right now too."

The first match of the tournament for the Bears will be at 11 a.m. Friday against UND at Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion.

The first leg of the tournament begins at 9 a.m. with the No. 3 seed Northern Arizona playing No. 6 seed Montana State. After the conclusion of the UNC-UND match, the lowest ranking seed will play Portland State and the highest ranking seed will play against Idaho State.

The seed pairings for Friday's evening matches have yet to be released. The Mirror will continue to provide updates all day Friday. Check for more information.

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