After an 8-6 mark against high quality competition in non-conference play, the Idaho State Bengals began Big Sky action with straight set sweeps of Montana State and Weber State last week.
In the conference opener in Bozeman against the Bobcats, ISU utilized the talents of reigning Big Sky MVP Tressa Lyman to come away with a road win. The senior had 14 kills, 2 blocks and an ace to lead the way, with Hayley Farrer setting her and the rest of the squad up 32 times on assists.
It was much the same story in the contest with Weber State inside Reed Gym, with the only close set being a 25-22 advantage in the second for ISU, which coasted 25-16, 25-22 and 25-15.
Lyman again led the way with 16 kills, while Farrer assisted 37 times. First-year Bengal Kaitlyn Johnson had four aces and nine digs as the defensive specialist.
Following the Weber State game, first-year Head Coach Rick Reynolds was impressed by the effort of his team.
“I thought we executed a pretty clean game plan,” Reynolds said to ISU Sport Information. “We came out, played hard and gave a lot of effort. Overall, we put more balls down, we dug better, we blocked better and it was just an all-around complete game by our complete team.”
One year after winning the Big Sky regular season title, but falling just shy of the NCAA tournament after a straight set loss in the conference championship match to Northern Colorado, the Bengals appear to be on the right track to give themselves another chance this season.
The last time ISU made the tournament was back in 2013 where they lost a hard-fought 3-1 battle with Hawaii. To earn that berth, the Bengals traveled to Portland for the conference tournament hosted by Portland State, eventually knocking off the Vikings in the championship in a clean sweep.
With a strong preseason behind them, the Bengals now have the task of living up to the number one ranking as predicted in the preseason poll.
A huge difference in the early season for ISU has been the play up front defensively, namely with blocks. At the time of publication, Kenzie Filer had led the way with 58 blocks, with Lyman and Marissa Todd tallying up 32 of their own.
Looking ahead, ISU has home matches on Thursday with Sacramento State and Saturday against Portland State before heading to North Dakota and Northern Colorado next weekend.