A busy stretch of play came to an end Sunday for the North Dakota State Bison volleyball team. After five games in 10 days, the Bison took the court at Benston Bunker Fieldhouse against Summit League favorites Denver.
NDSU kept within touching distance of the Pioneers, but ultimately fell 3-1 (25-21, 25-17, 27-29, 25-15).
Denver’s aggressive play was on from the get-go. In just 13 points played, the Pioneers had three aces.
In between aces and big swings, Denver could never get on a run due to a handful of service errors. In the first set alone, the Pioneers committed six errors on serves.
That was enough for the Bison to stick around. NDSU went on a 4-0 run, starting with Denver’s fourth service error. Following a kill from Emily Halverson and a pair of attack errors from the guests, NDSU came within one at 12-13.
That was as close as the Bison would get. Kills from four different Pioneers down the stretch gave Denver the first set.
Denver picked up where they left off in the second set. An early 6-0 featured a pair of aces from Andrea Eddy and put the Pioneers in the driving seat 12-5.
Again though, Denver’s errant serves kept NDSU alive. The Pioneers committed five more service errors in the set.
Those five points were more than the Bison could muster on offense in the second. NDSU had a total of three kills and a hitting percentage of negative .100 for the set.
“We usually go into the 0-2 deficit,” Bison outside hitter Allie Mauch said. “We need to capitalize on that right at the beginning, so we don’t fall into that and have to fight back in five.”
The extended break between the second and the third sets did the Bison a world of good. After the Pioneers tacked on three straight points, two on aces, NDSU got back on track.
The 12th service error of the day for Denver kicked off an 11-2 run for NDSU.
Bella Lien, Mauch and Alex Erickson all had a pair of kills during the run. Mauch added a solo block and combined with Lien for another as the Bison defense started to click.
“We came out, and I thought we did some really good things (defensively) at times,” Bison head coach Jennifer Lopez said.
An attack error by Denver’s Becca Latham gave NDSU a comfortable 17-9 lead.
But the Summit League leaders clawed all the way back. Tina Boe and Taylor Joachim each had back-to-back kills in a 5-0 run for the Pioneers.
A kill from Latham followed by an attack error from NDSU’s Abbi Klos tied the set at 23-23.
The teams swapped the next seven points, as the Bison could not put away three set points.
Denver had their first match point after a bad set from Kalli Hegerle, but failed to convert. Alexis Bachmeier took control with two big swings to give NDSU another set point. Denver’s Lydia Bartalo had a kill go wide, and NDSU got the point despite a slight protest from Bartalo.
It was a set of runs early in the fourth. Denver opened on a 7-1 run with Latham hitting a trio of kills. The only Bison point came off the 14th service error of the day for Denver.
But the response from the Bison was instant. Hegerle tallied an ace before kills from Bachmeier and Mauch were part of a 5-0 run to bring the set to within one.
A 7-2 Denver run followed with Boe adding another two kills.
The game finally settled down as the teams traded points. Hegerle added three kills for the Bison as NDSU struggled to cut the deficit to within five.
Mauch’s team-high ninth kill of the afternoon brought the Bison within four at 19-15, but that would be the last point for NDSU.
Andrea Eddy continued with Denver’s aggressive serve with back-to-back aces. Joachim finished the match with the kill, and Denver left with a victory.
Attention now turns for the Bison (3-13, 1-4 Summit League) to the east. NDSU travel to Western Illinois on Friday and conclude the weekend at Purdue Fort Wayne on Sunday.
On how close the team is getting to a streak of wins, Lopez said, “We are right there, and that is something we talk about every single day.”
The Bison return home on Friday, Oct. 12 to play host to the Fighting Hawks of North Dakota.