GREAT FALLS --- Rocky Mountain College's volleyball team earned a spot in the NAIA championships Saturday night by sweeping Montana State Northern 25-20, 26-24, 29-27 in the finals of the Frontier Conference tournament at McLaughlin Center.
The Battlin' Bears, 24-6, were the No. 2 seed at the nine-team tournament, while the Skylights, 26-6, were the No. 1 seed.
Middle hitter Yang Yang provided 14 kills and outside hitter Kylie Nielsen added 13, helping Rocky win its second conference tournament title in three years and the automatic berth to nationals that goes with it.
Yang also recorded 28 digs and three blocks for the Bears, who rallied from deficits of 22-17 and 24-20 in the third set.
Rocky took the lead 28-27 on a kill by Ahlea Billis and won the set on an ace serve by Nielsen.
"It was just a solid performance from every kid, and we knew we had to have that because Northern is a really good team," Rocky coach Laurie Kelly said.
Northern, ranked 24th nationally, had beaten unranked Rocky twice during the regular season.
"This is the best volleyball I've seen them play," Kelly said of her Bears.
The final Top 25 coaches poll will be announced by the NAIA on Sunday, along with the 36 qualifiers for the national championship tournament, which will be held Dec. 3-7 in Sioux City, Iowa.
Rocky will have to play a play-in match, with the 24-team opening-round pairings for the Nov. 23 on-campus matches being announced on Monday.
"I'm really glad these kids are in the top 36 out of almost 300 teams and hopefully we can get to the top 24," Kelly said. "I knew from the beginning it was a remarkable team."
Against Northern, Rocky setter Tori Bertsch came through with 39 assists and 14 digs. Teammate Brooke Myers had 22 digs.
Kelsey Williams notched 16 kills and 22 digs for the Skylights. Abby Nicolas added 12 kills, and Holly Cartwright was credited with 32 digs.
Earlier in the day, Rocky defeated third-seeded Lewis-Clark State 25-18, 25-14, 26-24 and Northern swept fourth-seeded Westminster College 25-19, 25-18, 25-19 in the semifinals.
Nielsen had 11 kills against L-C State. Yang provided four blocks, while Bertsch collected 28 assists and 10 digs.
Nicholas had 16 kills and Erin Jensen 10 in the Skylights' victory over Westminster.