October 21, 2009

Volleyball hits highest percentage since August in another victory against Air Force

Box score | NC season stats | Air Force recap

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. - Northern Colorado had five players hit .500 or better Wednesday night in its final nonconference match of the season against the Air Force Falcons and the Bears cruised to an impressive straight-sets win.

Northern Colorado (13-9, 6-2 Big Sky) hit .369 as a team (their second highest mark of the season after hitting .407 in a victory against Texas-San Antonio earlier in the year) and limited Air Force to .097 hitting through the first two sets to earn the victory in an hour and 19 minutes inside Clune Arena.

The Bears improved to 49-13 all-time against the Falcons (8-13, 0-8 Mountain West) with the 25-19, 25-17, 25-19 win, including five straight victories against them dating back to the 1995 season.

Senior Allison Raguse led the way for Northern Colorado Wednesday night, hitting .500 across the three games with 10 kills and just one error in 18 swings. Seniors Kenzie Shreeve and Taylor Smith were right behind, hitting at a .400 clip (11 kills apiece). Shreeve's 11 kills gave her 1,038 for her career and moved her into a tie for 11th on the program's all-time kills list (Stacey DeJong, 1987-90)

Sophomore Breanna Williams finished with five kills and just one error (.667) and setter Natalie Laband had a quick-hitter kill in the third game on her only swing (1.000).

"The key to today's match was how quick we are and whether or not we'd be able to continue that tonight," Bears coach Lyndsey Benson said. "For Allison and Taylor, that's their biggest strength. When they are able to take advantage of that and maintain their fast style, they usually have good performances. And that played out tonight in their hitting percentages and stats."

Senior Breanna VanDerMost had 10 digs Wednesday night, giving her double-digit digs in a match for the 18th time this season, and junior Ashley Lichtenberg and Shreeve tied for the Bears' team lead with two blocks each.

Northern Colorado ended its initial run through this year's Big Sky Conference schedule last weekend with hotly contested matches against Portland State and Eastern Washington. And the Bears are set to face traditional conference-power Sacramento State this Saturday night inside Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion.

That schedule, sandwiched around the Air Force match and paired with the Bears' lopsided history of success against the Falcons, set the stage for Northern Colorado to enter Wednesday night an overconfident group.

It didn't happen, though. The Bears dominated from the outset in this one and finished their unofficial instate Division I tournament with a 2-2 record after getting wins against Colorado and the Falcons and coming up short against Denver and Colorado State.

"I think it was actually good to step out of conference play tonight," Benson said. "We kind of get stuck in a groove a little bit, talking about the same things and the same opponents, when we're in the middle of conference play. So it was great to get a different look tonight from Air Force.

"It's almost like you're getting a practice session while still getting to compete against another team besides yourselves. In a week like this, where we would have had five practices anyway in anticipation of Sacramento State, it was nice to see another team that's going to bring some different things at you, so we could work on reacting to surprises."

NOTES: Northern Colorado is now 8-2 this season when winning the first two games of a match ...  The Bears earned their seventh 3-0 victory of the season Wednesday night ...  Air Force hasn't defeated Northern Colorado since claiming a 3-2 victory on Sept. 7, 1994.