After going a month in between conference wins, the Weber State University volleyball team took the court Friday night looking to continue its winning ways against the University of Northern Colorado. After all was said and done, the Wildcats left the Swenson Gym with a two-game winning streak after another highly contested five-set match (25-21, 21-25, 25-21, 19-25, 15-12).
This is WSU’s first two-game conference winning streak since October 2009. The Wildcats improved their season record to 7-20, 3-10 in the Big Sky Conference. Both teams hit more than .200 and combined for 126 kills, but the Wildcats did just enough to get the win.
The Wildcats’ offense went through sophomore Whitney Hunt, who was able to feed the ball to the outside hitters. Hunt had a double-double with 54 assists and 13 digs. Junior Audrey Biggs was the main recipient of those assists, connecting on 19 kills while hitting .325.
Freshman Megan Bean led the Wildcats for most of the match, finishing with a career-high 15 kills, while sophomore Rebecca Fuchs contributed 11 kills.
Two players who came up huge for the Wildcats were two veterans of the team. Senior Shanae Burgin played a large part in the victory when she sparked the team with three straight kills to give WSU a lead. Perhaps her most important kill came in the fifth set just as UNC was gaining some momentum.
“It is nice that people get to see what Shanae can do,” said WSU head coach Tom Peterson. “She has always been able to do that. Kudos to her for always being ready to do that and not getting down, then being ready when she is called upon. Being able to hit a slide is a strength that she has, and she got some kills from it.”
The other veteran was McKay Tarbox, the junior libero, who not only brought leadership but endless energy, making big plays when needed. At one point, she almost found herself in the stands as she was able to save the ball, which later ended in a point for her team.
“The team as a whole feed off each other really well,” Tarbox said. “We were just working for each other, like, I did this to help out my teammate. That is why we played so well; it’s because we were playing for each other.”
UNC entered the game after winning four of its last five contests. Even the performance of Ashley Guthrie, who recorded a triple-double with 10 kills, 50 assists and 10 digs, wasn’t enough to disrupt the Wildcats. It was the Wildcats who not only talked about winning but showed they wanted it more.
“We knew that we were going to have to play really together in order for us to beat them again, because they were going to be out for blood,” Fuchs said. “We had to pull together the things that we haven’t been able to do consistently all the time. We adjusted quicker than we usually do. We may not have done it all the time, but it led to a win.”
Peterson said he was happy with the team’s performance from the setting to the defense. He also said he has confidence that if a match goes to a fifth set, he knows the team will be able to play well when it needs to.
“Our setter play was great tonight, maybe even one of her best games,” he said. “Our distribution and keeping the ball going (helped), but her digs and blocks helped as well. When someone makes a great play, we celebrate their success. Momentum is huge, and I think we are getting better with that. When a game goes to a fifth set, we are confident. Winning close matches builds your confidence.”
The Wildcats will now hit the road for another four-game road trip. They will play Montana State University and the University of Montana on Oct. 8 and 9.