Published: Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 02:11
Eduardo Rodriguez /The Mirror file photo
UNC junior setter Marissa Hughes, left, sets the ball for freshman outside hitter Tambre Haddock, right, in a match against Sacramento State.
The UNC volleyball team plays host to Portland State Thursday with the top position in the Big Sky at stake.
The University of Northern Colorado (15-8, 8-3 Big Sky) last faced Portland State (13-11, 9-3) Oct. 1 and escaped with a five-set victory on the road.
Thursday's match pits the top two teams in the conference, and if the Bears win, they will have swept both meetings with Portland State this season and will retake the top spot with only four matches remaining.
In the teams' first meeting, the Bears took the first two sets, including a dominating 25-9 game one win. After the break, though, the Vikings took games three and four. The Bears rebounded to take game five, 15-12, and earn the victory against last season's Big Sky representative in the NCAA Tournament.
The Bears recorded several standout performances in the win, arguably none better than senior defensive specialist Amanda Arterburn's 40 digs. The total was the third-highest in the Big Sky since 2006 and was six shy of UNC's all-time record.
UNC also benefited from freshman middle blocker Andrea Spaustat's 18 kills, junior outside hitter Kelley Arnold's 20 kills and 11 digs and junior setter Marissa Hughes' 59 assists.
As the second-to-last home match for the Bears, a win Thursday would provide confidence and breathing room heading into UNC's senior night match Saturday with the Eastern Washington Eagles (12-11, 8-4), who currently hold the third spot in the Big Sky behind the Vikings and Bears.
The match against Portland State begins at 7 p.m. Thursday at Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion.