The Trappers (15-8, 5-2) won both matches in three sets, but didn’t always look to be at their best.
Northwest did away with the Argos 25-11, 25-9, 25-16 Monday evening, but had more difficulty with the same squad in Tuesday afternoon’s 25-19, 25-14, 25-16 victory.
“There’s no ifs ands or buts, they were sluggish,” head coach Shaun Pohlman said of his team after Tuesday’s match.
The Trappers’ play was often marred with missed serves, easy balls hitting the floor and an overall lack of energy and urgency.
Pohlman said he thought playing a non-conference opponent coupled with the fact the Trappers hadn’t practiced since prior to Saturday’s game against Casper led to a drop-off in intensity from his players.
He also discounted the idea playing an afternoon match following a night game had any affect on his team’s play. Pohlman believes his team will kick it back in gear with the help of two practices in preparation for the weekend’s road conference matches.
“A couple days of practice we’ll get back to the routine of playing where we need to be,” he said.
Sophomore setter Mikaela Heble played in only two sets each match, but still wracked up 19 assists Monday and 26 Tuesday. Heble is currently 13th in the nation with 10.10 assists per set.
Outside hitter Ana Jakovljevic totalled 21 kills and five errors, in 34 attempts. Jakovljevic also served seven aces in four sets. The sophomore is currently second in the nation with 1.08 service aces per set.
Libero Elisa Brooks made her presence known in the back row with 24 total digs and again when she served six aces in each match. Inoa Fields wracked up seven digs while playing only three rotations before subbing out.
Taking two-sets-to-none leads in both matches allowed the Trappers to work on new offensive wrinkles as well as evaluate some of their talent.
Freshman middle Vera Horstmann played both outside and right side in addition to her usual position. Pohlman said he wanted to test her versatility.
“She’s a very dynamic player,” he said. “More so than she knows.”
The results agree with the coach. Horstmann made the most of her opportunities with 11 kills and only one error in 15 attempts.
Freshman Jamila Biglow also showcased her skills from the middle position with five kills in five attempts in one set of play Tuesday. Biglow had one kill in three attempts, two digs and a block assist in Monday’s win.
Freshman Kimber Call set in place of Heble for two sets and tallied 26 total assists.
Northwest also ran a faster-paced offense with the inclusion of some combo attacks designed to confuse opponent’s blockers.
“It’s good to have all those tricks up your sleeve to be able to use at a later time,” said Pohlman, who wanted his team to see the plays work in a game situation.
And without risking a conference game, Northwest was afforded the opportunity to open the playbook.
“You get the opportunity here to run without the fear of mistakes,” Pohlman said. “Enough to say, ‘Hey, we’ve done this before against someone besides ourselves.’”
Freshman Krystalyn Sloan was hitting 100 percent before the offense got a little more complex, but still finished Monday’s match with eight kills and no errors on 11 attempts.
Northwest’s blocking, which was a highlight when the Trappers recorded 41 playable blocks and were tooled just 18 times against Casper, regressed to what it had been early in the season.
“I was not pleased with our blocking,” Pohlman said.
The Trappers had a solid 34 playable blocks to just nine tools Monday, but the ratio flipped Tuesday when only 14 blocks were kept alive and 17 went for Argo points.
Northwest totalled only 10 team blocks over the two matches after registering 14 against Region IX’s Thunderbirds.
Again, the cure lies in practice. Pohlman said blocking will be something the Trappers will have to work on often to maintain a high level of effectiveness.
“It’s just eliminating some of the issues, some of the small things,” Pohlman said. “Hopefully we will become a more consistent, level-playing, type of team.”
Northwest's sophomores were approached by the Great Falls coaching staff following Tuesday's match to discuss making visits to the four-year school in Great Falls, Mont., as the Trappers consider how and where to take their volleyball careers post-NWC.
Tuesday’s match marked the end of Northwest’s five-game homestand. The Trappers will head to Rock Springs to take on Western Wyoming Friday and then Central Wyoming Saturday in Riverton.
“Those are two tough places to play, very tough,” Pohlman said.
The Trappers beat Central in four sets Sept. 10 and lost to Western in four Sept. 13. Both matches were played in Powell.