September 7, 2013

Bears split Saturday matches at Bluejay Invitational

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By PARKER COTTON

OMAHA, Neb. – After displaying some lackluster offensive drive against Creighton Friday evening and again Saturday morning against Cal, the Northern Colorado volleyball team finally came out of its shell against South Florida Saturday evening, picking up a 3-1 win to cap its experience at the Bluejay Invitational.

Northern Colorado began Saturday by getting swept by the Golden Bears of the PAC-12 Conference but rebounded to defeat the Bulls of the American Athletic Conference to leave Omaha with an even 3-3 season record.

The Bears hit just .034 against Cal in the morning match and had 11 service errors, which head coach Lyndsey Oates said was the main difference-maker in the 25-14, 25-16, 25-16 loss.

"Our serving definitely went out the window," she said. "Offensively, they got Brianna Strong going again, so that was a positive from the match, but I thought our serving and defense needed to be much stronger against a good Cal team."

Strong and Kendra Cunningham had the team lead in kills with six each against Cal, but the Golden Bears countered at the net with 24 block assists.

Northern Colorado regrouped for the evening match against South Florida with an impressive offensive showing. The Bears lost the first set 25-11 but came back to win the next three 25-17, 26-24, 25-21. Cunningham had 12 kills and Strong, Alyssa Wilson and Andrea Spaustat all recorded 13.

"I thought we were pretty balanced, offensively," Oates said. "Our middles got us going in game two, and our outsides made good decisions with the ball to keep us pretty balanced."

The Bears had 175 total attacks and 30 errors, but eight service aces and a well-rounded defensive effort fueled Northern Colorado's victory.

Merideth Johnson and Ashley Guthrie both collected 20 digs while Cunningham and Spaustat posted 14 and 12, respectively. Guthrie also had 42 assists, making her one of three Bears with a double-double against the Bulls.

"This was the defensive team I thought we would be all season," Oates said. "We came up with some great defensive stops, served well to keep them out of system, so that was really key that we were able to go on some defensive runs, which we haven't been able to do in the last several matches."

Northern Colorado will now turn its sights toward next weekend and Tulsa's Golden Hurricane Classic, where it will face Texas State, Arkansas and the host team.

"It was a much better team effort by us to get back on the winning track," Oates said, "and hopefully that carries over into next weekend."