September 30, 2006

Volleyball Drops Five Set Heartbreaker to Montana

Sept. 30, 2006

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GREELEY, Colo. - In an action packed match, the University of Northern Colorado women's volleyball team let a 9-point lead slip away in game No. 1 and eventually dropped a heartbreaker in five sets (30-28, 21-30, 30-28, 21-30, 15-13) to the University of Montana on Saturday night at Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion.

With the loss Northern Colorado (7-8, 4-2 Big Sky) falls to fourth place overall in the conference, a half match behind Montana (7-7, 4-1 Big Sky), who has won seven of its last eight matches overall.

The Bears, who always play well in front of a home crowd, looked in control early when they took a 25-16 lead on a Montana ball handling error. But Northern Colorado would self destruct as the Grizzlies scored eight of the next nine points to pull within 26-24. The Bears eventually took a 28-26 lead on a kill by Lenay Goble but a Claudie Houle kill and a pair of Northern Colorado attack errors gave Montana game point. EvaLyn Whitehead finished the game with an ace to put the Griz up 1-0.

That did not foreshadow well for the Bears, who are just 2-6 this season when dropping the first set, as opposed to 5-0 (and 18-1 under Coach Benson in two seasons) when winning the first set.

But Northern Colorado battled back, opening up a 25-12 lead in game two on its way to a 30-21 victory, evening the match at 1-1.

Game three was back-and-forth again and tied at 28 on a kill by freshman Devon Crotteau. Montana did not give way, however, and Jessica Petersen had a kill followed by a Jackie White ace to give UM a 2-1 advantage.

The Bears once again played strong after a set loss, leading the entire way in game four on its way to a 30-21 win which forced the decisive set.

The final set of the night may have been the most exciting, as Montana jumped out to a 6-2 lead forcing a Bears timeout. But Northern Colorado eventually tied the set at nine thanks to back-to-back UM attack errors. After it was tied at 10, Montana committed a service error and Meredith Alder followed with a kill to give the Bears a 12-10 cushion. But Montana would not back down in front of the raucous crowd, taking a 13-12 lead on an ace by Taryn Wright. After the Bears' Taylor Smith tied the game at 13, the Bears had back-to-back attack errors to give Montana the match.

"The match was not won or lost in the fifth set," Bears head coach Lyndsey Benson said afterwards. "We were never in sync offensively after losing the lead in game one. I credit Montana for keeping us off balance. They are a great blocking team."

Crotteau led the Bears with 15 kills while also adding seven digs and a solo block. She was one of four Northern Colorado players in double-digit kills, as she was joined by Lizzy Rhoads (13), Stone (12) and Alder (10). Stone added 12 digs while freshman Breanna VanDerMost, subbing for an injured Abby Mayne, had a team-high 17 digs. Setter Kristen Schevikhoven had 45 assists and 16 digs.

Montana was led by 21 kills and 22 digs from Houle. Libero Jackie White also added 22 digs while Whitehead had 13 kills.

The match was the first to go five sets for the Bears this season and first since Oct. 21st of last season (at Utah Valley State).

The road does not get any easier for the Bears next week as they travel to league favorite and perennial power Sacramento State (16-4, 4-0 Big Sky) on Thursday night. The Bears also challenge Weber State (Saturday) on the road swing.