Published: Monday, September 17, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 17, 2012 02:09
Rachel Bailey / The Mirror
UNC outside hitter Kelley Arnold, left, spikes the ball after an assist by senior setter Marissa Hughes, right, during Saturday’s 3-1 win against the Montana State Bobcats.
Following its 3-1 defeat Saturday of Montana State at Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion, the UNC volleyball team ran its
conference record to 2-0 and tied its Division I record for best 11-match start to the season.
It wasn’t easy, though.
After cruising through the first two sets with
relative ease — winning 25-19 and 25-17, respectively — the University of Northern Colorado (9-2, 2-0 Big Sky) was given a reminder of what playing Montana State (7-3, 1-1) is actually supposed to be like.
The third set featured six ties but the Bears could never get the lead after tying it and trailed by as many as six points and eventually lost 25-19.
“We served very aggressively in games one and two to keep them out of system,” head coach Lyndsey Oates said. “In game three, we backed off a little bit with our serving and then we saw the Montana State team that’s capable of hitting over .400.”
After being held to a .194 and .080 attack percentage in the first two sets, respectively, MSU turned the tables and hit .448 in game three to force a fourth set.
The fourth set, though, was reminiscent of the first two, with the Bears holding the Bobcats to a .061 attack percentage, leading to a 25-17 set victory to win the match.
The win gave UNC a 2-0 start in conference play for the fourth consecutive season.
Although a sweep was preferred, senior outside hitter Kelley Arnold said it was beneficial for the team to be challenged to the extent it was.
“When a team come across adversity, you have to get over that, and it really shows the character of your team,” said Arnold, who had 12 kills and eight digs in the match. “I think we were mentally unfocused (in the third set). We had just won the first two, and we went into the locker room saying, ‘We can’t go out unprepared and relaxed,’ but we also said we couldn’t play like we had pressure and I feel like we did. When we had certain points that we didn’t get, it was like a scared or anxious feeling.”
Arnold shared the team-lead in kills with sophomore outside hitter Tambre Haddock, and sophomore middle blocker Brianna Strong, sophomore middle blocker Andrea Spaustat and junior outside hitter Alyssa Wilson had at least seven kills.
Back in action for the first time in almost a week was senior setter Marissa Hughes, who sat out Thursday’s win at home against Montana because of a foot injury. Hughes was active Saturday, collecting 40 assists, seven digs and five kills against the Bobcats.
“I was a little nervous, just because I hadn’t been practicing and stuff, but it felt good to be back out there,” Hughes said.
After freshman Allie Hutcheson filled in admirably for Hughes against Montana, Hughes played in all four sets against MSU, a good sign in Oates’ eyes.
“I thought she looked 100 percent (Saturday), and that’s exactly why we rested her,” Oates said. “She could have played Thursday night. She wasn’t so injured that our trainers wouldn’t let her. I think we got her back to 100 percent, and hopefully we can keep her there.”
The Bears, after eight straight home matches, take to the road for their next action, playing at Idaho State (8-3, 2-0) 7 p.m. Friday in Pocatello, Idaho, and Weber State (6-7, 0-2) at 4 p.m. Saturday in Ogden, Utah.
“We’ll have a tough weekend on the road,” Hughes said. “It’s good to come off a strong weekend, but everybody’s going to come after us.”