August 31, 2010

Volleyball knocks down Falcons for 12th time in 13 tries

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GREELEY -- Northern Colorado volleyball started a little slow against Air Force on Tuesday night.

But once it got going inside Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion there was little doubt the Bears would get their 50th win against their instate rivals.

Sophomore Kelley Arnold had 14 kills against just one error for Northern Colorado in the 3-0 win (25-23, 25-18, 25-19), and senior Ashley Lichtenberg led all players with 17 kills and three blocks to help the Bears overcome a somewhat sluggish start and put away the Academy for the seventh straight time and 12th time out of 13 tries since 1991.

The Falcons (1-3) actually led 23-21 in the first game after Caroline Kurtz got a kill off an assist from Josalynn Wise.

Northern Colorado (2-2) scored the next four points, with a Lichtenberg kill and a Kelley Arnold ace among the scoring plays, to take the game.

The Bears never trailed in the match again.

"I'm not sure what the issue was early on," Northern Colorado head coach Lyndsey Benson said, "but it was probably a little bit of nerves with the first home match and a little bit of maxed-out energy in front of a pretty enthusiastic crowd.

"Whatever it was, I couldn't get them to shake it until near the end there. I'm proud of the way we battled through it and got ourselves going after last weekend in San Diego."

Northern Colorado slammed home 51 kills in the victory, compared to Air Force's 30, and the Bears won the block battle, too, getting seven to the Falcons' five.

Benson thinks her team has within it the makings of a great blocking team, with nine players measuring 5-foot-10 or taller. Tuesday night's win was the first time all season the Bears ended on the better half of the blocking ledger, though.

Benson said she was excited to take a step in that direction heading into this weekend, when Northern Colorado will host the 2010 Hampton Inn & Suites Northern Colorado Classic.

"We replaced some of the girls we lost last year with some definite height in this recruiting class," Benson said, "so I think we can really be a strong blocking team this season. We've gone up against some very tall, athletic programs so far, but it's good that we were able to establish our block tonight.

"Air Force's top player, Caroline Kurtz, never really got going tonight because of our block, and that's a good thing and what we'll need to do moving forward."

Defensively, junior Amanda Arterburn tied with the Falcons' Kelly Spencer for a match-high 11 digs. Marissa Hughes dished out 45 assists.

"We played Air Force a lot last spring in tournaments," Northern Colorado senior Julie Stephenson said, "so we wanted to come out tonight and show what we could do in front of a big crowd. This was a big match for us, being at home for the first time after the run we put together last year, and I think we showed well."