October 17, 2009

Volleyball falls back into tie for first after loss to Eagles

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Box score | NC season stats | EWU recap

GREELEY, Colo. -- Well, we're right back where we started again.

Northern Colorado won its first game against Eastern Washington on Saturday night and looked poised to finish its initial run through the Big Sky Conference schedule with an emphatic victory against last year's regular-season league champion.

The Eagles, though, quickly proved why they finished atop the heap a year ago by scratching out victories in games two and three and then slamming the door shut in the fourth for a 3-1 victory (23-25, 25-22, 26-24, 25-18).

The loss for Northern Colorado (12-9, 6-2 Big Sky), paired with Portland State's victory against Northern Arizona on Saturday night, dropped the Bears, Eagles (12-7, 6-2) and Vikings (12-7, 6-2) all back into a tie for first in the league race.

All three teams entered the weekend locked in the standings, and now all three will embark on the rest of their conference slates in a dead-heat.

The Bears busted out the gates Saturday night by collecting 19 kills, 16 digs and a pair of blocks.

They seemed to lose a bit of their aggresive track the rest of the way, though, in letting the Eagles impose their will and sneak out of Greeley with their fifth victory in seven Big Sky meetings.

"I passing seemed to break down a little bit tonight, and we didn't have rhythm," Northern Colorado coach Lyndsey Benson said. "When there's not rhythm to our offense, it's not going to be as dynamic as it needs to be. And it wasn't as quick as it needed to be, and when you play like that against a team like Eastern Washington, they are really going to be able to take advantage."

Junior Ashley Lichtenberg turned in another great performance for the Bears in the loss, notching 10 kills with just two errors for a .381 hitting percentage. Senior Kenzie Shreeve led Northern Colorado in kills with 13, and freshman Kelley Arnold notched 11 kill shots for the sixth time this season.

Senior Breanna VanDerMost had a match-high 19 digs and Shreeve notched a double-double with 11 digs, her fifth double-digit digs performance this season.

Overall, though, Eastern Washington was too much on this night. The Eagles had four players finish with double-digit kills and four players finish with double-digit digs.

"It's definitely hard to lose like that," said senior Allison Raguse, who notched four kills in the game-one victory but just five more the rest of the way. "We were so confident after game one, and then they knocked us down a little bit in game two. But, still, we were confident in the locker room. Then it just got away from us. We just made too many mistakes."