Volleyball takes down Rebels in Classic opener
GREELEY -- Northern Colorado Volleyball didn't play its best match Friday night in its season opener against UNLV.
Didn't matter, though.
The Bears still dominated in a straight-games, (25-18, 25-22, 25-18) no-doubt win on the first day of the third-annual 2011 Hampton Inn & Suites Northern Colorado Classic at Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion.
Junior Kelley Arnold showed flashes of downright dominance on the way to her first double-double of the season, with a match-high 13 kills (.500 hitting) and 13 digs as well as three blocks and a couple assists.
Senior Breanna Williams (foot injury) celebrated her first action in nearly a year with eight kills and seven digs, and junior Marissa Hughes controlled Northern Colorado's offense to the tune of 31 assists while also sneaking in six kills and a match-high four aces.
UNLV (0-2) actually led 13-10 midway through the first game, but the Bears (1-0) authored a 25-9 from there and into the second game to take command.
When the dust had settled on the furious rally, Northern Colorado was ahead 10-4 in game two and well on its way to a 1-0 season start for the third time since 2008.
"I thought we battled through some things," Bears coach Lyndsey Benson said. "We didn't play very comfortable tonight -- it looked like a first match -- but I think what shows we're a veteran team is that we battled through that. We didn't let that break us and fall apart. We found ways to score. We found ways to get out of tough situations. I think that was our veteran leadership getting us through that."
Arnold's arm swing has increased in velocity a little bit each season since her arrival in Greeley, and there was direct evidence Friday that she's taken it up another notch for her junior campaign.
One attempt knocked UNLV's Kendra Glendenning about a foot backward and on her back, while another hit libero Taylor Richard in the shins before any defense could be put up.
It was impressive, to say the least.
But the best performance of the night, in Benson's eyes, was Williams, who is finally 100 percent healthy again after a foot injury ended her junior season in mid-September and led to one in-season surgery and another offseason operation.
Williams was efficient with her attacks (8-4-17) and showed no signs of tenderness on her landings.
She smiled a lot, too.
"(She was) very composed and calm," Benson said. "It's great to see her healthy and enjoying it. You can tell she appreciates being out there. She's not going to take any moment for granted this year."
So, now it's time for the Bears to prepare for UC Davis (1-0), which controlled Colorado (1-1) in a 3-1 win Friday afternoon. The Aggies are led by Allison Whitson and Betsy Sedlak and will provide a strong test for the Bears. Benson tried with her scheduling this year to add some teams to Northern Colorado's résumé who would bring some RPI punch that may have been lacking in recent seasons.
She'll get it with UC Davis, which finished 114th in the national RPI rankings last season. Northern Colorado ended in 84th.
"I'm glad it's on our homecourt," she said. "They are big and physical and athletic, and they aren't going to give you very many easy points. UNLV gave us a few easy points tonight with some errors, but we know UC Davis isn't going to give us those."