October 3, 2009

Volleyball stays perfect in conference with impressive road win

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Box score | NC season stats | NAU recap

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Northern Colorado got superb performances across the board Saturday night in earning a tight 3-1 (22-25, 25-16, 30-28, 25-22) road victory at Northern Arizona.

Seniors Allison Raguse and Kenzie Shreeve and junior Ashley Lichtenberg all finished with at least 14 kills and at least a .382 hitting percentage, while sophomore Breanna Williams had eight kills and hit at a .500 clip.

And true-freshman Marissa Hughes tied her career high with 60 assists to go along with three digs and four blocks as the Bears overcame a sluggish first game to win out and move to 4-0 in Big Sky play for the first time ever.

Northern Colorado (10-7 overall) is also now a program-high six matches over .500 (29-23) all-time in four seasons of Big Sky competition.

"We just weren't able to get into a flow tonight," Northern Colorado coach Lyndsey Benson said, "but we were able to pull it out and earn a victory against NAU. Our girls were mentally tough in getting this victory, and I was proud of that. We're not going to always have things go our way, so it was nice to see them learn tonight that we can still win in those situations."

Lichtenberg entered the week ranked second in the Big Sky and 44th in the country with a .373 hitting percentage, and she actually improved on that mark Saturday night inside the Rolle Activity Center. The junior from Bettendorf, Iowa, had 15 kills with just four errors to finish with a .423 hitting percentage against NAU (4-9, 1-3 Big Sky).

Raguse was right behind with 14 kills and four errors (.417), and Shreeve led all players with 17 kills with four errors to finish at .382.

Northern Colorado hit .341 in the win, which was its second highest team-hitting percentage this season after hitting .406 in a 3-0 victory in late August against Texas-San Antonio.

"NAU absolutely had no answer for Kenzie tonight," Benson said. "She's had a great week for us, and that continued tonight. On the flipside of that, we had little answer for NAU's Jen Wilson. It was just one of those offense-dominated matches. I'm glad we were able to come out on top."

Northern Colorado entered the match after having played arguably its best match of the season on Wednesday night in a 3-2 loss to instate-rival and perennial national power Colorado State. So, there was a bit of a worry of emotional letdown for Benson's crew as they traveled south to dip back into Big Sky competition.

After the Lumberjacks' game-one victory Saturday night that worry began to take form.

But the Bears slammed into the intermission with a decisive game-two win and then earned a momentum-changing victory in game three after finding themselves 14-10 early on.

Northern Colorado then ensured the Bears avoided a football-volleyball sweep in Flagstaff by outhitting the Lumberjacks .412 to .212.

For the match, Northern Colorado dished out more assists (64-44), scooped more digs (51-32) and stonewalled more blocks (8-7) than NAU.

"This match was just full of offense, on both sides," Benson said. "Luckily, we were able to make some defensive plays at the end and get a tough win on the road. It's tough to win away from your home court, but we battled it out tonight and learned some valuable lessons. I'm sure we're going to need more efforts like this later on this season."