September 14, 2013

Strong makes all-tournament team, but Bears fall twice on Saturday

By Parker Cotton

TULSA, Okla. – The Northern Colorado volleyball team lost its final two matches of the Golden Hurricane Classic Saturday, but in the grand scheme of the season, optimism can be taken from the Bears' performance.

"I like the progress we're making as we get closer to conference," head coach Lyndsey Oates said. "I think these tough matches are preparing us well, and we'll be better because of it."

In the morning match against Arkansas, the Bears were held to .121 hitting, and three players led the team with six kills. Spotty offense was the theme in the first set, which Northern Colorado lost 25-13.

Northern Colorado made the next two sets closer but still lost 25-20 and 28-26, respectively.

"The match definitely was not won or lost in set three; that's what the match should have been like the whole time," Oates said. "I thought we were passive, especially in serve-receive, and then we just gave them too many points. For the entire match, we gave them too many unforced errors. If we could have had fewer errors on our side, I think we could have seen a different result."

Cheyanne Lyons, Alyssa Wilson and Brianna Strong all had six kills, and Andrea Spaustat led the team with four block assists. But the Bears had 21 attack errors, which proved to be too much to overcome.

In the evening match against Tulsa, the Bears lost by set scores of 13-25, 25-21, 18-25, 23-25.

Strong led the team with 13 kills and paired them with nine block assists and one solo block. Kendra Cunningham chipped in for 11 kills and 10 kills, her second double-double of the season, and Ashley Guthrie recorded 35 assists and 15 digs, her third double-double of the season. Guthrie and Cunningham also had five and three block assists, respectively, making them two of six Bears with at least three in the match.

Tulsa players Kellie Culbertson, Miriele Gobbo and Valerie El Houssine all had 11 or more kills for the Golden Hurricane.

Strong, after totaling 30 kills, 17 block assists and three solo blocks in the three matches of the weekend, was named to the all-tournament team.

"Cheyanne Lyons is really coming on as a freshman, our defense is kind finding its identity and I thought we made some great defensive plays today and our middles continue to score for us well, which will be a key for the season," Oates said. "We definitely took the right steps, but couldn't get over the hump of beating a good team."

While looking forward to conference play, which starts next weekend at Montana and Montana State, Oates said she was pleased with the courage and aggressiveness her team displayed to battle and stay competitive Saturday and that she expects that to carry over through the week.