The 2019 Big Sky Tournament title match pitted the top two teams from the regular season against each other. No. 2 Weber State tied the fifth set 12-12 and was three points from the championship before No. 1 Northern Colorado won 15-13 and took the match 3-2.
In Friday’s rematch 16 months later, No. 1 Weber State found redemption and revenge, defeating No. 2 Northern Colorado in four sets (24-26, 25-18, 25-17, 25-17) late Friday in Greeley, Colorado, to grab the Wildcats a bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1988.
Despite giving up a late lead in the first set, Weber State (18-1) led for the majority of each frame. The Wildcats opened the decisive fourth set with an 11-3 lead with two kills from Emma Mangum and two blocks from Sam Schiess.
WSU held an advantage of about five points the rest of the set and Dani Nay delivered the championship point glancing a kill out of bounds off the Northern Colorado block, sending the Wildcats’ bench swarming onto the floor and piling onto Nay.
“It’s a good day for us,” an understated WSU coach Jeremiah Larsen said on the broadcast after the match.
Big Sky MVP Rylin Adams led WSU with 19 kills and 16 digs.
“She’s our leader. She gets all feisty and we get feisty with her,” Larsen said.
Nay added 17 kills and three aces, and Mangum hit .375 with 11 kills and five blocks. Schiess added five blocks, Caroline Broadhead four blocks, Makayla Sorensen 18 digs and Ashlyn Power 45 assists.
The first set looked much like WSU’s semifinal Thursday against NAU; the Wildcats held a late 23-20 advantage and a 24-23 set point but lost 26-24.
In set two, Northern Colorado got up 6-3 early but Nay rifled three straight kills and later served an ace for a 13-10 advantage. Adams asserted some control late in the set with kills and and ace, and cashed in on a kill after a long rally to take the set 25-18.
Weber State opened set three with an 11-3 lead in a run that included two blocks from Schiess. Northern Colorado rallied to tie it 13-13 but the Wildcats answered with seven straight, eventually taking the set 25-17.
The NCAA Tournament selection show airs at 2 p.m. MDT Sunday on ESPNU and the tournament begins Wednesday, April 14.