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Berths to nationals decided today

by JASON ELLIOTT
Sports Writer | November 5, 2010 9:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - When first-year North Idaho College volleyball coach Colleen Frohlich opened practice in early August, her focus was simple - win as much as possible.

NIC (24-6) earned the right to host the Region 18 tournament starting today at Christianson Gym after winning the Scenic West Athletic Conference championship with a 9-1 record.

"I didn't expect to have this kind of a season," said Frohlich, who replaced Chris Kosty. "I knew the talent was there for something good to happen. So far, it has worked pretty well."

Eighth-ranked and third seeded Southern Idaho (22-10) faces sixth-seed Colorado Northwestern (2-24) in the first quarterfinal match at 10 a.m., with the winner advancing to play the second-seeded Salt Lake Bruins (25-5) at 4 p.m.

Eastern Utah (8-14) will face Snow College (17-13) in the other quarterfinal at 1 p.m., with the winner playing NIC at 7 p.m. in the other semifinal.

The winners of Friday's semifinal matches qualify for nationals, and will play on Saturday at 1 p.m. to determine seeding to the NJCAA tournament Nov. 18-20 in West Plains, Mo.

NIC lost in the semifinals to eventual NJCAA champion Southern Idaho in three games in last year's Region 18 tournament in Salt Lake. Salt Lake finished third at nationals last season.

NIC last advanced to nationals in 2008.

"Last year, there was more pressure on us going into the tournament," 6-1 sophomore left side hitter Tina Strahinic said. "We were ranked No. 1 last year, so we felt a bit of the pressure from that after starting really well. This year, the target wasn't on our backs so we could just go out and play."

Esther Timofeyev, a 6-1 sophomore right side hitter from Moses Lake, also saw some time on last year's squad.

"Last year, we were focused on some different areas of the game," Timofeyev said. "We're playing more as a group this year and we've stressed playing with discipline. Coach Frohlich has done a great job of keeping our intensity up."

NIC has only lost once in Scenic West Athletic Conference play, falling to Salt Lake last Friday in four games.

"We really want to defend our home court," Frohlich said.

NIC had won 12 straight matches going into the final weekend of league play. NIC defeated Snow in three games to finish 9-1 in the league last Saturday.

"The fire is still there," Frohlich said. "We hated to lose last week, but the fire is still there. There are a lot of teams playing for the same thing we are."

Brenna Peterson, a 6-foot sophomore setter from Olympia, Wash., added that playing in front of their Coeur d'Alene fans should bring an added edge for the Cardinals.

"It's our hometown," Peterson said. "We don't have to travel. We're comfortable playing here and it's nice to be playing at home. Playing at nationals is a once-in-a-lifetime chance and we really want to go."

The College of Southern Idaho will be presenting live statistics for all games in this weekend's tournament at www.sidearmstats.com/sidaho/wvball.

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