HELENA — A season unlike any other came to an end earlier than anyone associated with the Carroll volleyball team would have liked with a 3-2 loss to Montana State Northern in the Frontier Conference Playoffs on Tuesday night.
A battle right down to the match point in the final set, the Saints overcame a 2-0 deficit to force a winner-take-all fifth set. Back-and-forth in that fifth set, Northern narrowly edged past the Saints 15-13 to advance to the semifinals to face Providence, ending Carroll’s season at 10-9.
“Disappointing for our seniors,” Saints head coach Moe Boyle said. “I think they left it on the court for sure. I think, as has been the story for the last couple of weeks, had we not got down 4-0 in that fifth set, we might have given it a better shot. They played hard. I know the third and fourth sets they felt like they really played the way that we’re capable of playing. We didn’t put a whole match together playing the way that we’re capable of.”
Set wins of 25-14 and 25-19 helped dig the Saints out of the early hole they put themselves in after giving up the first two sets 26-24. Playing for their seniors, the Saints never really allowed Northern to challenge in the third and fourth sets, while getting double digit kills from four different players on the evening.
Despite a .178 team hitting percentage for the match, a mark that included a .204 clip in the fourth set, Carroll once again dug itself a hole, this time the match-deciding fifth set. While the Saints battled back, Northern never backed down and surged ahead to capture the match point with a long rally.
From Carroll’s three seniors in Ali Williams, Madi Quick and Laurel Kassa, what has been very successful careers in the purple and gold came to an end when the 15th point hit the board for Northern in the fifth set on Tuesday.
“You can’t forget that when you put that jersey on it could be the last time, it doesn’t matter what day it is,” Boyle said. “It hits you like a brick wall when you do and you gotta take it off because you can’t put it back on again. You don’t realize that until you’re actually in that jersey for the last time, but as much as you can, you have to look at those three girls in the eye in the locker room and know that they just put their jersey on for the last time.”
By Boyle’s own comments after the match, her seniors left everything they had out on the court despite the outcome. Williams notched 23 assists to go along with six kills, and a .286 hitting percentage. Quick dug 15 balls and Kassa bested her with 23 digs and a service ace.
In a match that went the distance, Carroll racked up 135 digs, including 49 from freshman Julia Carr and recorded 12 team blocks.
Northern, however, got really solid play from senior Rylee Burmester who contributed 18 kills and 17 digs while hitting .120. Junior Abigail Ellison was a big part of Northern’s fight in the fifth set and racked up 10 kills to go along with 38 digs.
Despite the ultimate outcome on Tuesday, Carroll enjoyed yet another winning season under Boyle and has plenty of bright spots within the roster to build around when the season rolls back around in the fall.
For the Skylights, they now move on to face Providence on Thursday in Great Falls with a trip to the Frontier Conference Tournament Championship on the line.