Northwest volleyball looks to regain its stride while being on the road after splitting two MIAA conference matches in Bearcat Arena Oct. 5 and 6.
Central Oklahoma (19-4 overall, 7-2 MIAA) made its way to Maryville to clash with the Bearcats in an MIAA matchup Oct. 5. Northwest (15-5 overall, 7-2 MIAA) found itself in an early deficit by dropping the first two sets to the Bronchos. After a quick turn around and the Bearcats winning the next two sets, the teams found themselves playing in a match-deciding set five.
Northwest gave up eight errors during the fifth set and this ultimately was the deciding factor when losing the match (17-25, 22-25, 25-21, 25-22, 14-16). Although the loss was taken, three Bearcats, including sophomores Hallie Sydney and Maddy Ahrens along with senior Maddy Bruder, recorded double-doubles during the match.
“We found ourselves in a tight fifth set again, and we will win when we earn it,” coach Amy Woerth said. “When you give up eight unforced errors in a critical set five, you are not going to win.”
It didn’t take long for Northwest to bounce back and redeem itself as the Bearcats swept Pittsburg State Oct. 6 (25-18, 30-28, 25-23). Notable standouts in this match included Bruder, etching her 11th double-double on the season, and Ahrens completing her third straight double-double as well. The team hit a season-high .462 in the first set with 14 kills and only two attack errors.
The Bearcats closed out the match in the third set after it highlighted seven ties and two lead changes.
“We found ourselves in some tough situations against Pitt State, and our girls showed some grit and got out of them,” Woerth said. “It was a good growing moment for us as we prepare for five straight games on the road.”
Northwest wrapped up most of its home schedule Oct. 6 against Pittsburg State and will not return back to Bearcat Arena until Oct. 26, when Missouri Southern makes the trip from their home in Joplin. The Bearcats will play five conference games before the matchup with the Lions and will be tested on the road in Topeka, Kansas, Oct. 13 with the undefeated Washburn Ichabods.
Washburn (21-0 overall, 9-0 MIAA) are unblemished through their first 21 games and show no signs of letting off of the gas. The Bearcats, when playing nationally ranked teams, have fallen in the deciding fifth set each time. Northwest’s record in set fives on the year is a winless 0-4.
“It really just comes down to the mentality of punching them in the face first and making our presence known,” Woerth said. “This team has that capability and knowing that will give us the best shot.”
One particular Bearcat made her presence known with her latest outings in MIAA play. Ahrens was named the MIAA Tri-Specialist of the Week for her performances against Central Oklahoma and Pittsburg State. Ahrens leads the conference in assists and averages 1.47 more than the setter from Nebraska-Kearney, Lindsay Smith. Ahrens had a combined 98 assists, 25 digs, seven kills, two blocks and one service ace in the Bearcats’ matches against the Lopers and Gorillas.
“The key for me is to continue developing a relationship with my passers,” Ahrens said. “I just really believe that the work that we have put in as a team puts me in an even better position to be successful. The award is just our hard work paying off.”