Nov. 10, 2012
Bearcats lose heartbreaker to No. 13 Truman
By David Boyce
Based on the way Truman established itself as one of the top four volleyball teams in the MIAA this season, Northwest Missouri State faced a difficult task of trying to win the final home match for seniors Tori Beckman, Kelsey Larson and Alicia Watson.
In the first two sets Saturday evening at Bearcat Arena, Northwest outplayed a Truman team that has lost only five matches all season.
Unfortunately, in the first set, Northwest couldn’t convert on four set points and lost.
Despite battling back to win the second and fourth sets, Northwest eventually lost the match 3-2. The scores were 26-24, 18-25, 25-20, 18-25, 15-5.
“I thought the second and fourth set we went after our game plan,” Northwest coach Amy Phelps said. “The fifth set is all about the momentum and they got the momentum. It was nice we had a competitive match. It hurts even more when you go to five and don’t win.”
Of course, a more fitting end for Beckman, Larson and Watson would have been a victory. Afterwards, Beckman was all smiles because she knew her younger teammates gave everything they had for a victory that was within grasp.
“I’m extremely proud of my team,” Beckman said. “We could have said they are ranked above us and just caved in, but that’s not what our team is about. When we play higher competition, we step up to the challenge.
“They were fighting for us. We had a lot of fun tonight.”
The Bearcats, which dropped to 15-16 overall and 9-9 in the MIAA, showed plenty of fight in their final regular-season match. If they battle just as hard in the first round of the MIAA tournament, they will give their opponent a lot of trouble.
Northwest earned the sixth seed and will play at No. 3 seed Central Missouri at 7:00 p.m. Tuesday.
“I told the team to use this match as confidence,” Beckman said. “We can play with any team. We’ve taken a set from UCM and we’ve taken sets from Washburn and Truman. We can play with anybody, but it is the belief that has to come into it.”
Even in the loss Saturday evening, there were some impressive numbers by the Bearcats, especially the numbers read before the match started. Beckman, Larson all have GPAs 3.50 and higher.
Though Beckman, Larson and Watson have some volleyball still to play for the Bearcats, they have succeeded in the most important area: the classroom.
“All three of us know that we are students first,” Beckman said. “All three of us are excited about where we are going after the season. I couldn’t be happier that I’m going to be a middle school teacher.”
Watson’s GPA is a perfect 4.0 and after she graduates, she’s headed to graduate school at Northwest in Applied Health and Sports Sciences.
“I did my part in holding the team to a very high academic standard,” Watson said. “I really believe school is important. It is the reason I’m here. Volleyball is something fun I get to do on the side. School is the main focus because we want to be successful in life.”
Larson already has a job lined up with Cerner next year.
“I think academics are really important,” Larson said. “They really stress student-athlete here a lot. They really get on us if you have a C or below. They are constantly talking to you.”
On the court Saturday evening, there were plenty of moments that they could be proud that they were part of the 2012 Bearcats.
Northwest showed plenty of character in the second set. After letting a 24-20 lead slip away in the first set, the Bearcats quickly erased the memory of giving up the final 6 points to lose set one.
The Bearcats came out firing on all cylinders in the second set and quickly built an 11-5 lead. The maintained control the entire second set and won 25-18.
Northwest played close to perfect in the second set. The Bearcats passed the ball well. Dallas Gardner set up the hitters and Brooke Bartosh, Mackie Keller, Whitney Mason and Abby Graves put away points. Bartosh had seven kills in the second set, Keller had five and Mason and Graves each had four.
“We wanted to get off to a good start in the second set,” Watson said. “We really focused on mini games to five. We followed through on our game plan.”
Truman came out in the third set and played like a team that now has 27 victories on the season. The Bulldogs took control early, jumping to an 8-2 lead.
Northwest showed fight even though the set was pretty much over at 23-16. The Bearcats fought back and closed to 24-21 and even forced Truman to call timeout to stop the momentum.
The Bearcats refused to go quietly in their last home match of the season. They took an early 7-4 lead and held it throughout the fourth set. Northwest matched its level of play in the second set and forced the deciding fifth set.
Truman, though, never gave the Bearcats a whiff of an upset by scoring 10 of the first 11 points in the fifth set.
Beckman finished the match with 36 digs and Watson had 10 digs and two assists. Larson saw action in the first set.
Down the road, the numbers they recorded in their final home match will fade away. The memories of their days playing volleyball will last much longer.
“I think Northwest in general is just a great community,” Beckman said. “I love everything about it. I love you when walk into any restaurant you see posters of all the Bearcats. All the athletic teams are extremely supportive of each other.”
Watson said, “I think I will remember the most is my teammates and the friendships that I’ve made here. It really is a family. I love that aspect of it. I will definitely remember all my teammates more so than any game.”
Larson is proof that the Bearcat volleyball team is a family when she gets married in the summer.
“Six of my seven bridesmaids are my teammates,” she said.
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