Volleyball Turns It On Late In Bobcat Rout
BOX SCORE: Montana
QUOTES: Benson, Carter, Shreeve, Smith
GREELEY -- Northern Colorado's volleyball team did its best snowball impersonation against Montana State on Thursday night inside Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion.
The Bears started slow, picked up some steam in the middle and then completely buried the Bobcats in the end in a quick 3-0 victory.
The match spanned only one hour and 22 minutes, but the Northern Colorado team that rolled its way to a 25-10 third-game win was a far cry from the one that started the night with two solid, if not underwhelming, wins.
The Bears were actually down early to Montana State (3-16, 0-9 Big Sky Conference), but a get-it-together timeout speech from head coach Lyndsey Benson midway through the first game spurred them to a 25-21 victory and a subsequent 25-20 win in game two.
At that point, it appeared as though the Bears would be able to get by on this night without playing their best match.
But in that third game, Northern Colorado (13-5, 7-2) put some kind of exclamation point on the victory and cemented itself as the conference's current top squad.
The Bears hit .727 as a team in the final game -- a program high for single-game hitting percentage in the Benson era -- and silenced any thoughts that they might have been taking a peak down their schedule while playing the rebuilding Bobcats.
Montana, who defeated Northern Colorado earlier this season in Montana, will come to Butler-Hancock on Saturday evening.
“In preparing for the match (against Montana State), I really stressed that we can’t overlook them," Benson said. "And when we came out, I think we were trying too hard to not overlook them. We probably played a little tight early.
“The bottom line is: We have to keep getting better every single match. We’ve got seven left, and each one of those seven is just as important as the others. We cannot overlook any of them. ... It’s going to be a battle, but that’s what it’s all about. Our team’s just eating it up right now -- to be involved in a conference race like this.”
The usual names played big roles for Northern Colorado in the victory, but it was sophomore outside hitter Julie Stephenson who rose up and was an unexpected star. She led the Bears with a .615 hitting percentage and collected a career-high eight kills.
"Julie's definitely got the ability to play big for us, and she showed that tonight," Benson said. "Lauren did a great job getting her set up in spots to succeed, and she really took advantage."
As a team, the Bears hit .405, which was their best effort in Big Sky Conference matches this season. And defensively, Northern Colorado banged out 14 blocks and scooped up 31 digs.
It was an all-around solid match for a squad that looked every bit the part of a team learning to play with a bull's-eye on its back.
“Getting the experience of learning to put away a team like this is really good," junior middle blocker Taylor Smith said. "It’s good to be able to overcome the type of start that we had tonight -- we were too relaxed. So, it’s more fun to play a more intense match, but it’s important to play matches like this."