Volleyball rises from the dead in Halloween thriller
OGDEN, Utah -- Northern Colorado volleyball couldn't have been closer to disappointment Saturday night against Weber State.
But after earning an unbelievable 3-2 comeback win over the Wildcats, the Bears couldn't be happier.
Weber State won the first two games Saturday night 25-20, 25-19 and held a 24-20 advantage in the third game to put Northern Colorado so far on the ropes, a comeback seemed nearly impossible.
But come back the Bears did, claiming a 28-26 win in game three, picking up momentum with a 25-22 win in game four and steamrolling to a 15-8 victory in the decisive set to claim their second five-game victory in as many nights, win four matches in a row for the first time this season, and win for just the second time this season after going into intermission down 2-0.
Northern Colorado (16-9, 9-2 Big Sky) continues to author the best NCAA Division I season in program history, and now, thanks to Eastern Washington's loss to Montana on Saturday night, sits in the driver's seat in the Big Sky Conference race.
With three weeks remaining in their regular-season schedule, Lyndsey Benson's Bears control their destiny, even though they sit a half-match behind league-leader Portland State (10-2). Northern Colorado defeated the Vikings earlier this season at Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion in the teams' only meeting so far.
None of that would have been possible, though, without the Bears' rise-from-the-dead routine against the Wildcats (5-19, 3-9) in front of 309 inside Swenson Gymnasium.
"I thought that our maturity showed tonight," Benson said. "We never doubted ourselves, and we played with a lot of confidence when things got a little crazy. Even when our backs were against the wall, our senior leadership was great. Those four (Allison Raguse, Kenzie Shreeve, Taylor Smith and Breanna VanDerMost) played with a lot of poise and a lot of composure."
Collectively, those four leaders combined for 14 kills, 19 digs and seven blocks in games four and five and helped Northern Colorado hit a sizzling .733 in a fifth game that saw the Bears earn sideouts on nine of nine chances with 11 kills on 15 chances.
"Not much rattled us tonight," Benson said. "We didn't perform extremely well, but we battled, and sometimes that's what you have to do on the road to get these tough wins."
Also aiding in the victory was the play of junior Ashley Lichtenberg and Kelley Arnold, who both had career performances.
Lichtenberg finished with a game-high .571 individual hitting percentage in the win (10 kills and two errors), but her seven blocks, including four in the third game, loomed large.
And all Arnold did was set a career high in kills (20) a night after setting her career kills benchmark (19) at Idaho State. She also added seven digs in the win.
"Weber State played extremely well, but we were able to hold them off and get a tough win tonight," Benson said. "This was a great team effort, and I'm proud of how our girls battled through two nights on the road.
"This is going to be a great learning experience for us as we move forward these next few weeks. Things aren't always going to come easy, but I think the girls learned tonight that we can still have success in those situations."
MATCH NOTES: With the win, Northern Colorado improves to 8-3 in true road matches this season ... the Bears defeated Weber State 3-0 at home earlier this season and are now 13-6 all-time and 4-6 in Big Sky matches against the Wildcats ... Arnold entered this season with a lot of hype, and she's beginning to scratch the surface of her bright, bright future with the Bears. On top of notching back-to-back career performances, she's registered double-digit kills in eight of 10 matches ... Northern Colorado coach Lyndsey Benson is now a match shy of the .500 mark in her head coaching career (69-70).