Volleyball swats Hornets, gets off to best Big Sky start
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Northern Colorado volleyball came into its match against Sacramento State on Friday night a wounded bunch after melting down in a heartbreaker to rival-Denver on Tuesday.
In hindsight, then, perhaps the Hornets never stood a chance.
The Bears got a match-high 12 kills from senior Kenzie Shreeve, a match-high 23 digs from senior Breanna VanDerMost and hit .308 as a team on the way to a 3-0 (25-16, 25-17, 27-25) sweep at Colberg Court.
Seven Northern Colorado players finished hitting .250 or better in the win, and five hit .300 or higher as the Bears (9-6 overall) got off to their first 3-0 start in Big Sky play since joining the league in 2006.
The victory -- which was just the third Big Sky road sweep for the Bears, who previously earned 3-0 victories at Idaho State in 2007 and 2008 -- also extended Northern Colorado's winning streak against the Hornets (9-7, 1-1) to five matches. That's the longest stretch of wins over Sacramento State by any Big Sky opponent since the Hornets joined the league in 1996.
So, all in all, a pretty good night for Lyndsey Benson's program, which was in definite need of a hug following its mindboggling defeat to the Pioneers just three days ago.
"You might not be able to tell it from the final stats," Benson said, "but I'm really proud of how we finished game three tonight. We played very well there, we tried some different things, and we handled the chaos well during such a crazy finish."
After cruising in the first two sets Friday, the Bears were up 16-8 in the third game before watching the host Hornets go on a 17-8 run and earn a set-point situation at 25-24. A combo block from Taylor Smith and Shreeve tied the score at 25, Smith followed with a solo block to put the Bears up a point, and freshman Marissa Hughes slammed the door shut with a silencing ace.
With such a convincing final margin, it's not an exaggeration to say Northern Colorado dominated the match, but when the dust had settled, Benson was the most excited about her team's defensive effort. The Bears, who entered the week leading the Big Sky in hitting percentage, assists and kills (offensive numbers) outdug Sacramento State on Friday night 59-44.
Not bad, considering the Hornets entered the week ranked 23rd in the nation in digs per set (16.93).
"To outdig Sacramento State is huge," Benson said. "That's kind of their bread and butter, and we talked about that alot coming in here tonight. To outdig them by 15 is something I'm really proud of. Our backrow defense really came through for us and helped us get this big road victory."