After a vicious non-conference schedule, the Idaho volleyball team opened conference play with a hard-fought 3-1 victory against the Northern Colorado Bears Thursday in Greely, Colorado.
The match marked Idaho’s first appearance in the Big Sky since 1995.
“We started out a little slow,” Idaho coach Debbie Buchanan said. “With every set, we definitely got better and the girls were able to gain momentum in each one.”
Sophomore outside hitter Ali Forde led the Vandals with a team-high 17 kills and a .357 hitting percentage. Senior middle blocker Alyssa Schultz added 12 kills and hit .500.
Idaho finished with a .316 hitting percentage as a team.
“They did a really good job on our middles,” Buchanan said. “All four of our pin hitters really made a difference tonight between Ali (Forde), Jess (Hastriter), Becca (Mau) and Kate (Peterson).”
The Bears compiled 72 kills as a team, nine more than the Vandals, led by middle blocker Timarie Nymyer’s 17. After losing the first set 19-25, Idaho sprung out to a 7-1 lead early in an epic second set. Seven kills by Northern Colorado’s Kim Weissmann negated the quick start, and the Bears rallied to tie it 15-15.
UNC had the Vandals on the ropes 24-21, but couldn’t capitalize as Idaho won three consecutive set points to tie it at 24. Junior outside hitter Katelyn Peterson put the set away with a kill followed by a solo block as Idaho took the second set 31-29.
“That was the turning point of the match,” Buchanan said. “I think we’ve showed our character a lot of times this year, and being able to prove that we can do that.”
The Vandals had few problems in the final two sets, winning 25-23 and 25-19.
Idaho senior Jessica Hastriter added 14 kills on the outside, and setter Meredith Coba lobbed 51 assists.
The Vandals have a day off before playing Saturday at North Dakota.
“They run a little different offense,” Buchanan said. “I think the challenge is can we go on the road and start a little stronger and get after it.”