As the regular season is nearing its closure, Northwest volleyball found itself finishing its last road stretch Nov. 8-9 against the Newman Jets in Wichita, Kansas, and the Central Oklahoma Bronchos in Edmond, Oklahoma.
The Bearcats were not scared when entering Fugate Stadium Nov. 8 to take on the struggling Jets (1-27). Northwest was clicking on all cylinders, and more importantly for the program, on the offensive side. Northwest hit .379 for the match with 49 kills while siding out at 67%. The strong offensive play of Northwest allowed three ties and one lead change throughout the whole game.
Coach Amy Woerth praised the Bearcat offense for keeping Newman off balance.
“Our serving and passing did a good job, especially our left side. When it came to putting them in a deficit, our serving did a good job,” Woerth said. “We went short on them and kept them off balance. I thought we found a flow and really went after it.”
As more teams are installing fast-paced offenses in the MIAA, the ability for the Bearcats to have quick and mobile players on the court feeds into their advantage. Since seeing more teams like this, Northwest felt comfortable from a defensive standpoint. The ’Cats showed their defensive powers when limiting Newman to .089 hitting percentage and forcing the Jets into 17 errors. Newman also struggled to side out at 45%.
Northwest completed the sweep by set scores of 25-18, 25-16 and 25-19. Junior outside hitter Hallie Sidney had another clinic as she was the will power in Northwest’s offense with 17 kills and a .441 hitting percentage. Sidney also recorded her 15th double-double, which leads the team.
This performance from Sidney led to her fifth MIAA Hitter of the Week award. After the two games, Sidney averaged 4.71 kills and 3.86 digs while recording another double-double with 16 kills and 15 digs against Central Oklahoma.
“Hallie is a really confident player. She’s going to walk into a gym and believe she can do it,” Woerth said. “She has a memory that is 0.5 seconds. She really doesn’t think about what happens but more what needs to happen. She stays calm in a lot of challenges.”
After a sweep of the Jets, Northwest traveled to Edmond, Oklahoma, Nov. 9, looking to redeem themselves from a disappointing sweep from the Bronchos earlier in the year.
Scouting from the Bronchos showed a weakness in the Bearcats lineup, which allowed for easy tips. Tips, typically a softer attack to better position the ball, proved to be the Bearcats’ kryptonite. The Bronchos were also able to utilize their dump downs effectively.
The low hitting percentage and high amount of errors from the Bearcats did not translate well, as they lost by set scores of 22-25, 19-25, 25-15 and 13-25.
While it was hard to swallow another loss dealt by the hands of Central Oklahoma, Woerth saw it as a learning experience.
“From the standpoint of growing from this, we had some great conversations out of it. More than likely, there’s potential we’ll play them again,” Woerth said. “You think about the battles we lost but the war still has to be determined. We’re looking at the next step of really being prepared and play really well against them.”
The loss put the Bearcats to 19-7 overall and 12-6 in the MIAA, where they sit in fourth place. It also slides the ’Cats down to No. 19 in the most recent American Volleyball Coaches Association Top 25 Poll.
While the Bearcats are dealing with a slow decline in the polls, Woerth showed no sign of panic. She believes Northwest will right the ship when they discover consistency.
“From an offensive standpoint, we haven’t been able to hit at the percentage we need to,” Woerth said. “From a defensive standpoint, we have to fight through challenges together and figure out how to stay connected throughout those challenges.”
Northwest will finish the regular season this weekend Nov. 15-16 against No. 3 ranked Washburn and Emporia State in Maryville. The Nov. 16 game marks the last time for seniors to be on the court in Bearcat Arena.
The mindset heading into the matchup, senior libero Maggie Murphy said, is to enjoy the weekend and enjoy the challenge that faces the Bearcats.
Outside hitter Genny Cruz and middle hitter Briley Downing share their thoughts on their upcoming last games in Bearcat Arena as well.
“I haven’t thought about it too much,” Cruz said. “It still doesn’t feel like it’s getting close to the end. I believe we still have a lot of playing to do this month, so I’m just excited about that.”
“I don’t really like thinking about being done in Bearcat Arena because I’ve loved my time as being a Bearcat,” Downing said. “I’m not ready for that to be over yet, and it’s not over yet, so I just want to focus on that versus the end.”