Oct. 4, 2011
Griffons nip Bearcats in five
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. - The way Northwest Missouri State volleyball team played in the first set against rival Missouri Western, it was hard to imagine the match going the limit Tuesday evening at M. O. Looney Fieldhouse.
But the Bearcats showed tremendous growth from a week ago when they were swept in three sets at home against Rockhurst.
Missouri Western has a better setter and more hitters than Rockhurst. It didn't matter to Northwest.
The Bearcats battled back to win the second and fourth sets and held an 8-5 lead in the deciding set. During the changing of sides in the fifth set, Northwest lost its momentum. Missouri Western scored eight of the next points for a 13-10 lead.
Northwest didn't have enough match left to get on another run. The Bearcats wound up losing 25-19, 18-25, 25-19, 14-25, 15-12.
"We are going to work harder in practice and come together as a team," said sophomore middle hitter Amy Majors said. "We are going to stick together and beat some teams."
The loss dropped Northwest Missouri's record to 7-10 overall and 1-3 in the MIAA.
The good news for Northwest is it can push a match to five sets when it gets off to a slow start. It is the first five-set match of the season for the Bearcats.
"I was happy that we battled," Northwest coach Jessica Rinehart said. "We could have rolled over.
"The bottom line is we need to be more consistent. I don't quite understand beating a team by 10 points and then starting slow the next set. But that seemed to be the theme of the night. Both teams are working on their consistency."
The Bearcats showed their fight in the second set when they fell behind 5-2. They got hot and took a 10-6 lead. Majors was one reason the Bearcats started to roll.
Another key frontline player was junior outside hitter Kelsey Larson, who moved into a starting spot after seeing limited playing time a week ago against Rockhurst.
"She has been working extremely hard in practice all season," Rinehart said of Larson. "Last weekend she got an opportunity to get in there and start and she lit it up. She's been making good decisions on the court."
After the Bearcats won the second set, they appeared to have the momentum. It changed in a hurry. Missouri Western took a 17-9 lead and easily closed out the third set.
"I thought we had more than what we showed in the first set," Rinehart said. "I tried to get them to dig deeper and not let an opportunity pass us. I thought if we played well we could take Mo. West."
Northwest refused to let its play in the third set affect the way they played in the fourth set. The Bearcats completely dominated the fourth set. Majors added to her kill totals and finished with 12. Freshman Abby Graves led the Bearcats with 14 kills and Larson added eight.
"I think we did a really good job of keeping up our energy and stuff like that," Larson said.
Graves hit a few thunderous kills that were stunning. The enthusiasm she showed after each one of her kills energized her teammates.
The Bearcats seemed well on their way to a road conference victory. Unfortunately, they lost the momentum midway through the fifth set and it cost them the match.
"It came down to our passing and that affected everything else," Larson said.
Another lesson was learned that should help the Bearcats even more when they return to action 7 p.m. Friday at home against Truman.
"We realize the importance of starting off strong, especially in the fifth set, which we did," Larson said. "We let up because we had that three-point lead. No lead is a big enough lead."
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