Not all 3-0 defeats are created equal in volleyball.
After Fort Lewis College struggled to find offensive continuity in Fridays loss to Colorado Mines, the Skyhawks looked crisper and much more energetic despite a 3-0 loss to No. 9 Nebraska-Kearney on Saturday at Whalen Gymnasium.
While the Lopers undeniable skill was too much for Fort Lewis to overcome, FLC (12-8, 6-6 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) powered around a .098 attack percentage in the first set to put forth efforts of .231 and .233 in the next two but were outscored 25-17, 25-16 and 25-22 in defeat.
Kearney brings a very different style of play much slower than Mines and we play better with that, FLC head coach Shelly Aaland said. Plus, weve had the conversations; we know that this is a process, and I am just really proud of their effort.
The Skyhawks came out firing in the third set, which was quite the nip-and-tuck affair. FLC led 20-18 late in the set thanks to strong offense from Chelsea Flaming, who finished the set with seven kills and 15 total, and an incredible 31 of their 66 digs. But a quick 5-0 run by the Lopers (21-3, 12-0 RMAC), buoyed by two aces from Cola Svec, put Nebraska-Kearney up for good.
As evidenced by the 31-dig third set, FLC was much stronger defensively on Saturday than Friday. Libero Jenna Kinzer literally threw her weight around defensively diving, stretching and contorting her way to a game-high 18 digs, while Jessica Wilson added 16, and Flaming had 12.
My bodys hanging in there, Kinzer said, joking. A little ice, but Im fine.
Aaland was impressed with the defensive effort, in particular the Skyhawks 5-2 advantage in blocks.
They just went for it. ... Jenna had an awesome night digging. I havent seen her dig that well since preseason. Aaland said.
Jeri Walkowiak led the offensive effort for UNK, which had a .246 attack percentage, with 12 kills.
FLC opened the match strong, sticking with the Lopers until a quick 5-0 run turned a 16-15 UNK lead into a 21-15 advantage.
Freshman setter Hali Groninger, although still experiencing a few growing pains, was much more effective Saturday as well. Groninger had 34 assists, and she seemed to do her best work on the short, quick sets.
Her confidence is just going to keep getting better the longer she plays, because shes played all season in practice, but theres nothing that can replace time on the court in games, Aaland said.
After a dramatic improvement against the leagues best squad, FLC will turn its attention back toward reaching the apex of the West Division when it hosts Western State and CSU-Pueblo next weekend. After a much more encouraging effort, Kinzer said she and her mates cant wait to get back on the court.
We cant wait to get out there ... and our goal is to take first in the West ... so were really going to try and go after them, Kinzer said.