Volleyball holds on against Viks, sweeps Northwest road trip
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Northern Colorado junior Kelley Arnold had a second consecutive impressive performance Saturday night, but she didn't shine nearly as bright in the Bears' 3-2 win against Portland State as she did last night in the a win at Eastern Washington.
That's because this time, in a gym where the Bears had won just once in eight tries (in 2004), Arnold was flanked by record-breaking and career-high performances from senior Amanda Arterburn and freshman Andrea Spaustat.
Set scores were 25-9, 25-18, 18-25, 17-25, 15-12, with Northern Colorado winning a five-set match for the first time all season (1-3).
Arterburn was everywhere on defense and got to an incredible 40 digs in the win, setting a Northern Colorado NCAA Division I record and coming just six shy of the Bears' all-time mark set by Tia Self in 1998.
Arterburn's performance was also the third-most digs of any Big Sky player since Northern Colorado joined the league in 2006 (see chart below).
And Spaustat? All she did was slam down a career-most 18 kills with just four errors in 27 attempts for a remarkable .519 hitting percentage, helping the Bears to a .307 mark for the match.
Those efforts, paired with Arnold's 20 kills and 11 digs and setter Marissa Hughes' season-high 59 assists, pushed Northern Colorado (10-5, 4-1 Big Sky) past the Vikings (8-10, 4-2) and to the very top of the conference standings.
"This is an historic win, since we haven't beaten Portland State here since they were in the Big Sky," Northern Colorado coach Lyndsey Benson said. "But, we certainly did it the hard way. I really liked how we came out and attacked the match early on, but give credit to Portland State in [sets] three and four. They were digging balls and blocking balls much better, and it put us back on our heels a little bit.
"But I liked that we were able to prove that we can win a five-[set] match, because we haven't done that yet this year. And it was important to feel confident walking out of this place, because we'll be back here in November (for the Big Sky Conference Championship)."
Northern Colorado roared out of the gate and looked anything like a team fighting potential fatigue after traveling to Portland from Cheney, Wash., earlier in the day. The Bears hit .462 with an 89 percent side-out percentage in the first-set win.
They then continued that play in set two, hitting .459, with just two errors in 37 swings.
But, like Benson alluded to, the Vikings showed their mettle and why they have won the most Big Sky matches since Northern Colorado joined the league six years ago (70) with a bounce-back effort out of intermission.
Portland State, last year's Big Sky representative in the NCAA Tournament and the second pick in this year's Big Sky preseason poll, committed just two errors in the next two sets (.298 hitting) to tie the match and likely evoke some "Can we beat these guys in this gym" thoughts from Benson's crew.
The Bears pushed those aside, though, and hit .370 in the tiebreaker to go along with 15 digs and one ace.
Arnold finished the match off with a kill and sent the Bears into their first of two season-long four-match home stands with a full head of steam and a championship focus.
"We'll take the win and move on forward for a tough week coming up, with Wyoming and NAU, who also had a good weekend," Benson said. "We've got to be ready to go. We'll celebrate it for a day, but then we've got to get moving on."
Top dig efforts in the Big Sky since 2006
52 -- Brittany Stowers (Northern Arizona) vs. Green Bay (Sept. 2008)
41 -- Caitlyn Anderson (Weber State) at Northern Colorado (Oct 4, 2007)
40 -- Amanda Arterburn (Northern Colorado) at Portland State (Oct. 1, 2011)