The yet-to-be defeated UNC volleyball team begins play in its second home tournament of the season tonight when it hosts the University of Tulsa in the first game of the Northern Colorado Classic tonight at Butler- Hancock Sports Pavilion.
The University of Northern Colorado is coming off a perfect weekend in its Hampton Inn & Suites Northern Colorado Classic when it took down Oklahoma, Air Force and North Dakota State a week ago.
“We need to keep fighting and not go downhill and always keep improving in practice,” sophomore outside hitter Tambre Haddock said.
Haddock was named the Big Sky’s Player of the Week Monday by helping the Bears extend their undefeated record to 6-0 last weekend, starting with 20 kills and 14 digs during the match against Oklahoma.
This weekend, though, the Bears are matched against three teams with winning records. Tulsa enters 5-3, but the Bears are 4-0 all-time against the Hurricane. Creighton University comes in at 5-1 and Ball State University comes to Greeley at 4-3. Northern Colorado is 1-1 all-time against Creighton but has never faced Ball State.
Junior libero Merideth Johnson said the challenges of such a tough schedule will be good for the team before starting conference play next week.
“I feel like every weekend we have been growing so just to continue to keep getting better and improving on everything,” Johnson said.
Johnson had no time for a break during the Air Force match, as the Falcons kept nailing the ball in her direction. Physically and mentally she had to adjust, and she did, to the tune of 20 digs against Air Force.
“Air Force is pretty good,” Johnson said. “Being on my toes and being ready for things that we wouldn’t get from say, OU.”
Possibly the only negative from last weekend for UNC was the serving to the other teams. Head coach Lyndsey Oates said serving is an area that needs improvement for the Northern Colorado Classic.
“That was the only glaring weakness where we have to be a little bit more consistent and serve tougher,” Oates said.
Senior setter Marissa Hughes did not play the final two sets against NDSU Saturday due to an injury. The status of her injury is unknown, but she was limited in her participation in practice this week.
Oates said, however, freshman setter Allie Hutcheson filled in admirably in Hughes’ absence. If Hughes isn’t ready for this weekend, Hutcheson could again see an increased role.
“I thought Allie did a great job,” Oates said. “She jumped right in there, and one of her greatest qualities is how competitive she is. She’s a gamer. She’s going to jump in there and make plays even if it’s not pretty or even if it doesn’t look the same as Marissa looks. She’s going to make the play somehow or someway and she wants to win as bad as anyone in our program.”
The Bears take the court at 7 p.m. tonight against Tulsa and face Creighton and Ball State tomorrow at noon and 7 p.m.,
respectively, Saturday. All matches will be played at Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion.