GREELEY, Colo. -- The numbers put up by Northern Colorado volleyball on Saturday night tell the story better than anything of its dominating 3-1 victory against Sacramento State.
The Bears had five players finish with 10 or more kills in the win, four players scoop 15 or more digs -- they outdug the Big Sky Conference digs leader by 19 (86-67) -- and they finished with 10 blocks to the Hornets' five.
It all added up to a convincing 25-21, 25-19, 26-28, 25-16 win for Northern Colorado (14-9, 7-2 Big Sky), helping it keep pace in the league race with Portland State and Eastern Washington, which both improved to 8-2 in conference matches with victories Saturday night.
"It's definitely going to be a race like this for the rest of the year," Bears coach Lyndsey Benson said. "This is such a competitive volleyball conference, and there are so many teams that can jump up and bite you on any given night. Sacramento State is a good, good team, and I'm glad we were able to get by out there and move onto next week."
Senior Allison Raguse played one of the best matches of her career Saturday night with 10 kills and no errors (.417 hitting) and a career-high 20 digs, senior Kenzie Shreeve finished with a match-high 19 kills and 16 digs (also a career high), and junior Ashley Lichtenberg led all players by hitting .500 on the night with 10 kills and two errors.
"I love playing good defense," said Raguse, who finished with just her second error-free match of the season in the victory. "It's a little extra perk when I'm able to add that to my final line. And I think my game matches up really well with Sac. State. They are a smart, shotty team -- they aren't just pounding balls -- they are more about placing it, which is what I think I'm better at."
Senior Taylor Smith smoked the ball throughout the match, too, finishing with 10 kills and no errors (.455), and Breanna VanDerMost led the Bears' defensive push with 22 digs, giving her 20 or more digs in five matches this season.
And when the upperclassman couldn't make a play, freshman Kelley Arnold was there to contribute 10 kills (she's had 10 or more of those in six of the Bears' last eight matches), and sophomore Amanda Arterburn rounded out the defense with 16 digs.
"We're getting to the point now where so many of our girls are becoming weapons that you have to deal with," Benson said. "Previously, either this year or in previous seasons, we've gone into matches with a certain player or two needing to play well for us to have a chance. Now, we are gaining the ability to come at you from multiple sides."
Yes, it was a true team effort for Benson's program Saturday night. When the dust settled on the Bears' onslaught, Northern Colorado found itself a winner against Sacramento State for the sixth straight match (the longest such streak by any Big Sky opponent against the Hornets) and it moved to a program-high seven matches above .500 in Big Sky play (32-25).
"It's really nice to have this much success against a program like Sac. State," Raguse said. "You want to pick up as many victories as you can as you make your way through the league, so it's nice to sweep the Hornets in the only times we're guaranteed of seeing them.
"(Tonight's victory) really shows how much depth we have, too. It shows how good our hitters are, how well we can play defense and how good our passers are. There's still some stuff we want to work on, but I think we're in a really good spot here. Our seniors, players who have been here for awhile, are doing well, and our new pieces are strong, too. We know we have to stay focused, though, so we can finish well in this last month."