Sept. 27, 2011
Northwest comeback falls short
MARYVILLE, Mo. - Northwest Missouri State battled to the end Tuesday night dropping a heartbreaker to Rockhurst at Bearcat Arena in non-conference college volleyball action.
No athlete or coach wants to lose. It's why they spend hours in practice, call timeouts to shift momentum and battle until the whistle blows to end the contest.
But winning is a process, one the young Northwest Missouri State volleyball team is learning in September.
Despite falling 25-22, 25-22, 27-25 to Rockhurst Tuesday evening at Bearcat Arena, Northwest showed plenty of signs that it will be a formidable opponent in the MIAA in October.
The two key ingredients in a youthful team are talent and a couple of seniors to lead the way. The Bearcats have it.
Instead of getting discouraged by a 4-8 start to the season, seniors Laira Akin and Alex Hanna must remain positive as sophomores Mackie Keller, Amy Majors, Whitney Mason and freshman Abby Graves continue to gain experience.
"We are just trying to get them to learn some mental toughness from the rest of us," Akin said. "As seniors and captains, we are hoping to set that example for them so they know what this is supposed to look like.
"Tonight, we showed we didn't have a 100 percent effort from everybody on the court. We want them to learn what Bearcat volleyball is all about. It's about bringing everything we have to everything."
Late in the second set, Graves, a powerful hitter in a somewhat small, 5-foot-9 frame, demonstrated some nuances in volleyball that helps win close matches.
Also during the match, Majors and Mason had kills that changed the momentum in the Bearcats' favor
"We all come from a really good base," said Graves, who finished with a team-high 11 kills. "What we've learned is we can rely on each other. We all have played a lot of volleyball. It is going to come together."
Northwest trailed 23-19 when Graves showed her versatility to help the Bearcats score points at a critical time. She started off with a booming kill. That didn't surprise Rockhurst because she had been doing that throughout the first two sets.
"She is really doing great things out there," Akin said. "She has done a great job the last couple of weeks and has taken it upon herself to make a difference."
After Rockhurst scored, Graves came back with a tip and it completely caught Rockhurst by surprise.
"You got to mix it up," Graves said. "The whole goal is to catch people off their feet. You have to think what if you were playing defense, what would you expect. You got to think what the other team is expecting and do what they aren't."
Graves followed that move with a block for a point.
"You got to have that killer instinct and push to the end," Graves said.
It helped Northwest close to 24-22.
"She is really athletic," Rockhurst coach Tracy rietzke said. "She jumps well, hits the ball hard and she sees the court. She did a nice job. We had a difficult time stopping her."
But Rockhurst ended the second game the same way it ended the first: a thunderous kill by McGovern.
Although the Bearcats trailed 2-0, they fought hard in the third set and held an 18-15 lead. Rockhurst scored five of the next six points for a 20-19 lead.
Trailing 23-21, Mason showed she has the clutch gene when she hit a kill to help the Bearcats close to 23-22. She did it again when Rockhurst had match point at 24-22.
Mason then served an ace that tied the set at 24-24 and Majors followed with a block that gave Northwest a 25-24 lead.
Rockhurst, though, concluded the match by winning the last three points. Once again McGovern was instrumental in the run. Her 19th kill of the match gave Rockhurst a 26-25 lead.
"She (McGovern) is tough," Rietzke said. "When she gets on a roll, she is tough. When she plays well, typically our team plays well."
The Bearcats want to get to the point where they can feed off a player on a roll that carries them to victory.
They will try to build that momentum Friday and Saturday when they play four matches in the Pittsburg State Regional Challenge.
"We are really going to focus on our start and getting off on the right foot," Graves said.
It's the last group of non-conference games before the Bearcats hit the bulk of their MIAA matches.
"We are really trying to focus on mental toughness," Akin said. "With this young team, it is hard for them to come back from a loss in the first game. In high school and club you are playing two out of three. It is more normal to play two games and be done.
"We are trying to teach them that endurance and mental toughness to get in there and fight for every point and every game matters. We are really trying to manufacture those things in practice. We need to do a better job."
For more information, please contact:
Media Relations Department, Northwest Athletics
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Lamkin Activity Center | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468