The season-opening match last weekend didn’t go according to plan for the Montana State University-Northern volleyball team.
But the good news is, the Skylights have six matches over the next three days in order to get things headed in the right direction.
Northern, which lost its season-opener to Midlands University last Friday in Great Falls, will compete in the Cascade/Frontier Challenge the next three days in Spokane. The Skylights will take on six teams from the NAIA Cascade Conference, including matches today against Warner Pacific and Eastern Oregon.
“I think this trip will be exactly what we need,” MSU-N head coach Bill Huebsch said. “We’re playing six matches, two every day, against good competition. But they are all winnable matches, and it will be good for our kids to get a ton of time on the court.”
Northern’s ultimate goal is to win every match it plays this weekend in Spokane, but Huebsch will also use so much court time to iron out some wrinkles he saw in the Skylights’ three-set loss to Midlands last Friday. In that match, he said his team didn’t block well enough, only earning two team blocks, and defensively, the Skylights weren’t where they need to be to compete with a very good Midlands’ quad.
And today, Northern will have to be much sharper, especially against EOU, a perennial NAIA powerhouse.
“I just don’t think we put our best foot forward in Great Falls,” Huebsch said. “That was disappointing. I know the girls were disappointed too because they know we are capable of playing so much better than we did.
“Hopefully, this week we can do that,” he added. “Eastern Oregon will be the big test for us. They are another big, long team and they will really challenge us defensively. Hopefully, we will have learned some things from the Midlands match and we can compete much better this time around.”
Blocking and serve percentage are two things Huebsch would like to see get better this weekend. And, if it does, the Skylights will be in good shape because they do possess a talented offense. Abby Nicholas already totaled 14 kills last Friday, and has already shown she’s one of the premier players in the Frontier Conference. And with Kelsey Williams and Dayna Jensen adding 11 kills against Midlands, the Skylights are proving they have some potent hitters on the outside.
As for the rest of the weekend in Spokane, MSU-N should be favored in most of its matches. After today’s doubleheader, the Skylights return to the court to take on Corban University and Evergreen State Friday, as well as Northwest University and Oregon Institute of Technology Saturday.
And with six matches in such a short amount of time, Huebsch sees this tournament as a chance to not only rack up some wins, but also continue the building process as the Skylights move closer to their Sept. 13 Frontier Conference opener with Carroll College.
“I told the girls, if we learn from the Midlands match and are better down the road, then it’s all OK,” Huebsch said. “And this tournament is a great opportunity to do that right away. If we go out in those first matches and show we’re not making the same mistakes and we’re continuing to improve, that’s what we want.
“We have a good chance to do very well this weekend,” he added. “We’re going to face some really good competition, with Eastern Oregon probably being the toughest match. But we also feel like we should be able to go to Spokane and be very competitive and very successful. So hopefully, we show improvement and we do just that.”
MSU-N faces Warner Pacific this afternoon, and EOU at 7 tonight. Friday, the Skylights battle Corban at 12 p.m. and Evergreen State at 4 p.m. Saturday, MSU-N takes on Northwest University at 2 p.m. and Oregon Tech at 6:30 p.m. The Skylights then return to Havre, only to head to Florida for another non-conference tournament Aug. 30-31.