Volleyball again loses to Rams, but the gap is closing
FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- Northern Colorado volleyball didn't win its match against Colorado State on Wednesday night inside Moby Arena.
No, the Rams were just a little too tough and a little too athletic for the Bears, who played maybe their most complete match of the season in a thrilling five-set loss (25-23, 22-25, 25-23, 21-25, 15-13) in front of 1,687 fans.
Northern Colorado forced the tiebreaker with an outstanding fourth-game effort, and senior Taylor Smith tied the fifth game at 13 with a kill before senior Kenzie Shreeve's ensuing serve went a bit long. The Bears then dropped to 1-4 this season in five-set matches when CSU's Danielle Minch threw down the game-winning kill.
What Northern Colorado did do here tonight, though, in standing toe-to-toe with one of the preeminent volleyball programs in the country, is prove a point to their powerhouse rivals, to the Colorado volleyball community, and maybe even to themselves.
The program that head coach Lyndsey Benson is building in Greeley is pretty darn good. And more and more people have come to realize that this season each time Northern Colorado takes the court.
The Rams entered Wednesday night's match having not lost to Northern Colorado since 1982 and had only dropped one set to the Bears in their previous seven meetings. Colorado State did continue its overall winning streak against the Bears with the win, but it's obvious that these teams are a lot closer to each other than they used to be.
And that's saying something, considering the type of program Colorado State is.
"We definitely played right with them tonight, and I'm really proud of that," Benson said. "Just two years ago, we played them here in Moby and got blown out in three games. Then last year, we took a game off them in Greeley. Now, here we were tonight, in position to defeat them in their own gym. Now, we just have to take that next step."
Colorado State won nearly every statistical category Wednesday, getting more kills (72-61) than the Bears, hitting at a higher percentage (.279 to .252), dishing out more assists (66-57) and outblocking Northern Colorado 11.5 to 7.0.
But the Bears just kind of hung around all match, going on some good runs on more than one occasion and never letting the Rams or their fans really get going.
In just a few short years, they've grown as a program to the point that there was a sense of disappointment during the postgame that they didn't win the match.
"There were a couple times during the match where things were going really well for us and some other times where things weren't going so well," Benson said. "But I think our girls did a good job of staying even throughout. They were so focused, and it really showed.
"That's what it's going to take to do the things we want to do this season, and it's pretty big we were able to maintain that composure in such a high-intensity match."
Shreeve led Northern Colorado in the victory with 17 kills and nine digs, and Smith was right behind with 15 kills, four digs and four blocks. Freshman Kelley Arnold contributed 11 kills and two blocks.
"I think that was definitely the best we've played all season," Shreeve said. "We played with confidence and we were able to stick to our game, for the most part. Now, we just need to take what we did tonight and bring that into our matches back in the Big Sky. I'm proud of our effort. I just wish we would have won."