August 29, 2009

Loss to Aggies leaves volleyball with day-two Mean Green split

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DENTON, Texas -- Northern Colorado volleyball found itself in an 0-2 hole on Saturday afternoon for the second straight day at the North Texas Mean Green Volleyball Classic.

The Bears this time, though, weren't able to climb all the way out in a 3-1 (23-25, 23-25, 25-19, 22-25) loss to New Mexico State, which received 28 votes in this year's AVCA Top 25 Preseason Poll.

The Bears (3-1) started the day with a resounding 3-0 (26-24, 25-23, 25-18) win against Texas-San Antonio, setting the stage for their tournament-heavyweight showdown.

The Aggies were just too tough.

They chased Northern Colorado into the break with a pair of 23-25 victories, but the Bears broke from intermission with a 25-19 victory and seemed poised to repeat their performance from Friday morning, when they knocked off SMU in five sets after falling behing 0-2.

New Mexico State (3-0) squelched that thought, though, with a 25-22 set-four victory.

"I’m proud of our weekend," Northern Colorado coach Lyndsey Benson said. "I thought we really battled through some adversity and fought through, even in this last match (against NMSU), proving we can play with some of the top teams. New Mexico State is a very good team. They are great offensively, but we countered that and we were pretty good offensively, too. But we just couldn’t make some key defensive plays.

"We’ll get to work on that this week. We need more matches like this one. We need to go against great offensive teams that will push us. So playing New Mexico State was a great learning match for us early in the season. And we’ll get better because of it."

Kenzie Shreeve finished with team-high kills in both of the Bears' matches Saturday, getting 11 in the morning match and 14 in the afternoon. True-freshman Kelley Arnold, after a slow start Friday, got going Saturday with 20 kills in the two matches while commiting just three errors.

And Taylor Smith, after turning in a .438 hitting percentage in the loss to the Aggies, finished the two-day tournament in her hometown with an absolutely scorching .514 hitting percentage.

Smith's numbers weren't quite good enough to lead the Bears to a tournament title, but they were enough to land Smith on the Mean Green Classic All-Tournament team.

"Taylor had a great offensive weekend and was a solid blocker all weekend as well," Benson said. "She’s absolutely deserving of earning that honor in her hometown tournament."

Breanna VanDerMost led the Bears defensively in the morning win (11 digs), while Julie Stephenson keyed the charge in the loss (14). But, in what is potentially becoming a trend for Benson's crew, they were just part of the defensive effort in the two matches.

Five players in all scooped up at least four digs in the win against Texas-San Antonio, and the same was true against New Mexico State. 

"We just keep growing with each match and getting a little bit better each time," Benson said. "We’re getting a lot better with our mental toughness, to win those close sets. That’s been a big difference early on this year, is that we’ve really been able to pull out those close ones at the end. At 20-20, we’ve been really tough."

2009 NORTH TEXAS MEAN GREEN VOLLEYBALL CLASSIC ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM

  • Krista Altermatt, New Mexico State (MVP)
  • Kayleigh Giddens, New Mexico State
  • Dana Powell, SMU
  • Stephanie Robbins, Texas-San Antonio
  • Taylor Smith, Northern Colorado
  • Rachelle Wilson, North Texas