The Idaho volleyball team is no stranger to close, down-to-the-wire matches.
The Vandals (5-9) had another one Saturday in Grand Forks, North Dakota (14-5), as they dropped their first Big Sky match of the season to North Dakota, 3-2 after leading 1-0 and 2-1. Idaho’s next match is Thursday against Northern Arizona at Memorial Gym.
“We definitely came out strong and ready to play,” Idaho coach Debbie Buchanan said. “We just weren’t able to sustain it. We had opportunities to win the match — we just weren’t able to capitalize on them.”
Idaho had 66 kills on the match, but made 25 costly errors. The Vandals finished with a .207 hitting percentage.Sophomore outside hitter Ali Forde led the Vandals offensively, matching her season-high 17 kills. Senior middle blocker Stephanie Hagins finished with 16 and junior outside hitter Katelyn Peterson had 12.
Buchanan said the issue on Saturday was the amount of errors and a poor effort defensively, not the lack of offensive production.
“We’re going to work more on our defensive side and being able to transition into the offense,” Buchanan said. “It’s not that we’re not able to run our offense or score, it’s just that we have to do a better job playing defense.”
Idaho took control of the match early, winning the first set 25-16. A lopsided affair ensued in the second, as UND pounded the Vandals 25-8.
On the verge of going down 2-1, Idaho trailed 24-22 in the third set. Three consecutive kills put Idaho ahead. Peterson’s kill put it away 27-25 for the Vandals in a set that had 16 ties and nine lead changes.
UND took the fourth set 25-17. In the fifth and final set, Idaho had UND on the ropes at 13-11. The Vandals couldn’t put the match away and lost a heartbreaker, 20-18.
“We had our opportunities,” Buchanan said. “When it comes down to the end of the match, we have to be able to put the ball away and create opportunities. Those were the things that we weren’t able to do down the stretch.”
Meredith Coba logged a season-high 56 assists. She played strong defense, totaling 11 digs for her fourth double-double of the season.
Northern Arizona comes to Moscow Thursday as the Vandals open their home portion of Big Sky play.
“We’re playing another really good team in Northern Arizona who were picked to finish first,” Buchanan said. “We have to get better at some things as we move forward and compete with these teams.”