September 6, 2008

Volleyball's Streak Ends ... But History Made

BOXSCORE: NC - Illinois-Chicago
BOXSCORE: NC - North Dakota State

FARGO, N.D. -- Northern Colorado's volleyball win streak came to an end Saturday afternoon against North Dakota State, but the Bears' earlier added a victory against Illinois-Chicago and furthered one of the best season starts in program history.

Northern Colorado entered the day having not lost in five matches in 2008, and the Windy City's Flames proved just another notch on the belt of the Bears, who won 3-0 (25-23, 25-11, 25-14) and moved onto the finals, where they fell 3-1 (25-19, 21-25, 25-19, 25-23) to the host Bison in the championship match of the NDSU Doublewood Inn Classic at Bentson Bunker Fieldhouse.

This is just the 10th time since 1976 that the Bears started a season 6-0, and it's Northern Colorado's best start to a season at the NCAA Division I level, which they began playing at in 2003.

"We made some great defensive plays today," Northern Colorado coach Lyndsey Benson said. "And we serve-received much better. We continue to get better every match, which is a good thing. We just didn't make adjustments quick enough against the Bison -- to their fast pace and their blocking schemes. That was kind of the story of the match."

There were plenty of bright spots for the Bears in the loss.

Northern Colorado junior Kenzie Shreeve continued her strong play in Fargo with another solid day against the Flames and the Bison. She totaled 26 kills in the two matches and that, combined with her 23 kills in the Bears' victory against UTEP on Friday evening, was enough to earn her a spot on the all-tournament team.

Not to be outdone, Northern Colorado junior Allison Raguse also earned an all-tournament nod. It's Raguse's second such nomination in as many weekends. She was tournament MVP during the Bears' run to the title at last week's La Salle Tournament in Philadelphia.

And junior Breanna VanDerMost (27 digs) and true freshman Amanda Arterburn (17 digs) provided stellar defense.

In the end, though, the Bison, behind the play of freshman Jennifer Lopez, who was named tournament MVP, were just too tough on their home court.

"We just didn't execute when we had the opportunities and never really got in a rhythym offensively," Benson said. "Credit NDSU for that, though. They had a great blocking match. We just couldn't get in a flow with our hitters swinging."

Now, Benson's crew will turn its attention toward the Big Sky Conference season, which won't begin until Friday, Sept. 19, when the Bears travel to Montana.

In between, the Northern Colorado volleyball program will host its Alumni Match, which will feature a China Night theme. Pictures and videos from the team's trip to eastern China in mid-May will be on display and the Bears will face off against some familiar faces in the program's history.

The event is scheduled for 7 p.m.

"We're looking forward to this week being a little lighter load," Benson said. "We're excited for our Alumni Match and to get the conference season started."

* Catherine Chavez, UTEP
* Lana Lobdell, UIC
* Jennifer Lopez, North Dakota State (MVP)
* Kelly Lopez, North Dakota State
* Lauren McLaughlin, North Dakota State
* Allison Raguse, Northern Colorado
* Kenzie Shreeve, Northern Colorado

Final tournament standings (ties broken by head-to-head results)
1. North Dakota State 2-1
2. Northern Colorado 2-1
3. UTEP 1-2
4. UIC 1-2