Only two weeks into the season, the UNC volleyball team has already earned its second title following a 3-0 weekend that started with a win Friday over the Big 12’s Oklahoma — a team ranking 29th in coaches polls.
The University of Northern Colorado (6-0) tied its best start under the leadership of head coach Lyndsey Oates, after winning-out during the Hampton Inn & Suites Northern Colorado Classic at Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion. The last time the program met the milestone was in the 2008 season.
In its first five-game match of the season, UNC kept close ties with Oklahoma (5-1) and came out victorious in the end, 25-18, 23-25, 25-20, 25-19, 15-13. The Bears never backed down during the match, something Oates said will have a huge impact on the season.
“This group is so driven, and that is what is going to make them so successful,” Oates said. “They refuse to lose on their home court.”
At the close of the tournament, senior setter Marissa Hughes, sophomore outside hitter Tambre Haddock and senior outside hitter Kelley Arnold were all named to the all-tournament team with Arnold also being named the weekend’s MVP.
Arnold had 27 kills over the weekend and had a double-double against North Dakota State (1-5) on Saturday with 13 kills and 13 digs to secure the weekend sweep. The Bears defeated the Bison in three games, 25-23, 25-21, 25-20. Arnold said one of the goals for her this season is to not only be big up front at the net but also to contribute in the back.
“(It’s nice) being able to not have to worry about who’s next to me and whether they’re going to dig the ball and having that confidence and the reassurance that you don’t have to go for a ball half way across the court because you know someone’s got your back,” Arnold said. “So, it’s nice that it kind of pulls some of the pressure off and you can just focus on your game.”
In order for Arnold to contribute all around, some of the younger players will need to step up, something Haddock and freshman Kendra Cunningham were both able to do throughout the tournament.
Haddock had double-digit kills in two of the three matches with 10, 8 and 20, respectively.
Cunningham was able to experience overcoming struggles to refocus each match between the Air Force and North Dakota State matches Saturday.
“Lyndsey talked to us as a team and the whole team came together and said, ‘Hey, clean it up, we’ve got this,’” Cunnigham said. “The team kind of helped me pull through, and we all did really well.”
Against Air Force (1-5), Cunnigham was among some of the younger players who saw the court when the Bears won in four sets, 25-23, 20-25, 25-7, 25-12.
“We’re a lot more deep (sic) than I thought we’d be, to be honest,” Oates said. “At the beginning of the season that was a concern. I really like how we’re developing. Allie Hutcheson had a great night tonight, stepping in for Marissa who was hurt after the first game.”
Hutcheson had a .667 attack percentage against Air Force. Hutcheson also played the entirety of the final two games against North Dakota State (1-5). Oates said Hughes left due to an ankle injury but said it wasn’t serious.
The Bears have one more tournament before entering the Big Sky portion of their schedule. This weekend, the Bears will compete against Tulsa, Ball State and Creighton during the Northern Colorado Classic at Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion before hosting Montana Sept. 13.