Post-season volleyball in northern Colorado holds destiny in its own hands

The University of Northern Colorado (17-8, 11-3 Big Sky) secured first place in the Big Sky rankings after beating Weber State on Saturday.

UNC wraps up the regular season seeding conference tournaments this weekend. It is on a nine-game winning streak against Montana State since Oct. 13.

Head coach Lyndsey Oates, assistant Pi’i Aiu and several players have said in recent weeks that the team will determine its own destiny for the remainder of the season.

Here are things to consider as the post-season approaches:

UNC is in position to win the top seed and regular season titles

The Bears started conference play with a 2-0 record and were bottom of the table just a month ago. Now they are poised to win the regular season and secure the top seed for the league tournament.

UNC must prevail if it is to comfortably earn both. It could lose one or both and still win the title and No. 1, but the team would need help in other games and tie breakers.

Winning both games puts the Bears in a position to earn both directly, without having to rely on other teams’ success or failure.

They play East Washington on Friday and Idaho on Saturday. They’ve beaten both teams at home this season, and Idaho has struggled all year. However, Eastern Washington, coached by former Bears assistant Jon Haruguchi, should be a good matchup.

The Eagles should finish in the top eight and advance to the tournament. However, you will play for seeding. Eastern Washington upset Portland State on the road this weekend and won’t be a team to overlook.

Bears win Big Sky Awards

Northern Colorado outside hitter Kailey Jo Ince (16) reacts after scoring a point during the Northern Colorado Bears' volleyball game against the Montana State Bobcats at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley September 24, 2022.  (Alex McIntyre/Photographer)
Northern Colorado outside hitter Kailey Jo Ince (16) reacts after scoring a point during the Northern Colorado Bears’ volleyball game against the Montana State Bobcats at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley September 24, 2022. (Alex McIntyre/Photographer)

UNC received the Big Sky Offensive and Defensive Player of the Week awards, the conference announced Monday.

Graduate student Kailey Jo Ince received the offensive award after a total of 29 kills last week, including 23 against Weber State. She also hit at an efficient rate, recording a hit percentage of .353.

Ince contributed 27 digs in the two matchups. She recorded 17 against the Wildcats for her 10th double-double of the season.

The fifth-grader is No. 2 in the conference with 3.51 kills per set and 333 total kills.

Boon recorded 40 kills last week, including 30 against Weber State, averaging 5 kills per set. In league play, she averages 3.77 digs per set to rank No. 3 in conference play. She also contributed 11 assists and one service ace.

Ince continues to break records

Ince secured her spot in the 1,000 kills club last season, but she continues to climb the program ladder.

After the Weber State game, Ince moved up to the 7th place in all-time kills with 1,404. She is ranked #8 all-time in total attacks (3,751).

Ince is #2 in kills in the Division I era and #5 in attacks. In both categories, she passed former Eastern Washington teammate and current assistant Taylor Muff.

She ranks #3 in points for the Division I era (1,545.5) and #4 in games for the Division I era (126). Ince would break the game record if UNC advances to the Big Sky Tournament title game.

Ince also recently ranked in the top 10 in Division I for sets played (436).

With the final weeks of the season approaching, the Kansas native has the opportunity to help her team achieve their goals and continue her own success.

Big goals ahead

While winning the national title may not be realistic, Northern Colorado believes it can win at least one game in the NCAA tournament. This has been a goal for Oates and her crew for several seasons.

Last year, the team fell to Washington State in straight sets. A few years ago it fell in four in Hawaii.

The team believe they have the skill and depth to make it this season.

UNC swept North Carolina, beat Colorado State at Moby and faced multiple teams in the top 100 RPI.

If the Bears can secure Oates’ seventh Big Sky title, that NCAA tournament win could be a possibility based on the way it’s played now.

Northern Colorado plays Eastern Washington on Friday at 7 p.m. The Big Sky tournament is scheduled for November 23-26 in Ogden, Utah.

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