Nov. 10, 2010
Bearcats Sweep Rival Missouri Western
By David Boyce
Before practice Tuesday afternoon, Northwest Missouri State volleyball coach Jessica Rinehart had one thing in mind: Her Bearcats were going to work on closing out a set.
The drills worked.
In all three sets, the Bearcats played at their best near the end.
Northwest used its strong, finishing touch to come away with a 26-24, 25-23, 27-25 victory over rival Missouri Western Wednesday evening at Bearcat Arena.
"Yes, we did work on it and we showed it tonight when we came from behind in all three sets and won," said senior hitter Amber Guthrie. "That was awesome." Guthrie finished with six kills.
The victory lifted Northwest to 15-12 overall and 11-7 in the MIAA. More importantly, the win keeps the Bearcats in the hunt for one of the eight spots for the regional.
"This was a big match to win tonight," Guthrie said. "We know we have to do really well this week to make it to regionals. This was a great start to our week."
It was a near-perfect night for the Bearcats, who were playing their next-to-last home match of the season.
All evening, Northwest paid tribute to veterans. The volleyball team wore camouflage T-shirts with the inscription: "Thanks Troops" on the back.
The Bearcats then played like warriors when the set was on the line.
The start, though, wasn't pretty for Northwest. In fact, the Bearcats fell behind 17-10 in the first set. Rinehart used both her timeouts to get her team on track.
"The first time we just talked specifically what we needed to get done on the court," Rinehart said. "The second timeout was more of a focus timeout. We needed to have a mindset that we were going after them. I felt we were setting back a little bit. That seemed to help."
It worked. Northwest clawed its way back into the set and eventually took a 24-23 lead.
"We came back out and fought and finished and we ended up winning the set," Guthrie said. "It was a great momentum builder going into the next set."
The Bearcats again fell behind in the second set, but not nearly as much. The key moment came when Alex Hanna had a kill to tie the match at 16. Hanna then hit two booming serves that gave Northwest an 18-16 lead.
"Everyone in the gym could tell there was a huge shift in momentum," said Hanna, who finished with a match-high 12 kills. "We did a really good job celebrating and that helped us. It gave us the energy to finish the set."
The Bearcats never trailed again in the set. Northwest did make it interesting when it had match point at 24-21. Missouri Western got the next two points, but Rinehart called timeout. Northwest got the next point.
In the third set, Missouri Western started strong again, building a 15-10 lead. Northwest scored the next six points for a 16-15 lead.
The Griffons, who beat Northwest 3-2 in St. Joseph on Oct. 13, still believed it could win. They took a 23-19 lead and was just two points from forcing a fourth set.
Northwest scored the next four points to tie the match and eventually took a 26-25 lead. On match point, senior Sara Falcone ended it with an emphatic kill.
"It felt awesome," said Falcone, who finished with 10 kills. "It was great to come back from behind. We got down so much. We kept fighting the whole way. We knew we could win it."
A month ago it was Northwest's inability to close out a set that cost it the match against Missouri Western.
"We were really tough down the stretch," Rinehart said. "It was great to see that determination and composure down the stretch. We just took care of the ball and we were really scrappy down the stretch."
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