For a young North Dakota State squad, a Summit League volleyball road trip to Denver was always going to be a hard task. The Pioneers had come into Fargo three weeks ago and downed the Bison in four sets.
With home-court advantage switched, the Summit League leaders and the No. 6 ranked team among mid-majors dispatched NDSU with a 3-0 (25-21, 25-18, 25-13) sweep.
The Bison came out and tested the Pioneers. Emily Halverson tallied two of the Bison’s first three kills early. Those kills kept NDSU close, as Denver’s aggressive nature didn’t pay off. The Pioneers had three errors to keep NDSU down just one.
But the home team started to click, and the defense clicked first. Three consecutive blocks from Denver were part of a 6-0 run to open a gap.
NDSU responded with a run of their own of sorts. Five straight errors from the Pioneers brought the Bison back to 14-15 on the scoreboard.
The Denver hitters found their swing directly after. Three different players struck kills, and Lydia Bartalo hit a service ace while the Pioneers hit a 6-1 run.
Alexis Bachmeier hit a kill for the Bison during their 4-1 run toward the end of the first set, as the Bison challenged. But Denver finished the set at the second time of asking.
The second set began with a volley of kills. Bison Bella Lien and McKenzie Burke exchanged kills with Becca Latham and Katarina Marinkovic.
For the Bison offense, the rest of the set was hit or miss. Three attack errors to just one kill spurred a 6-1 Pioneer run.
Six more attack errors gifted Denver a 7-1 run and a comfortable lead.
Burke, Halverson and Bachmeier each had at least two kills down the stretch, but it wasn’t enough. NDSU finished the set with 12 kills to 12 errors.
Denver quickly put away the notion of the Bison being able to steal a set on the road. Bartalo, Latham and Marinkovic put numbers in the kill column early, as Denver stormed to a 6-0 lead in the third.
A kill from Burke was the only point on the board for the Bison after the first 10 points of the set.
The Pioneers arrived at the doorstep of victory with another 6-0 run in the middle of the set. Latham added the final two of her match-high 11 kills to give Denver match point with the Bison stuck on just 11 points.
Emma Willis slammed home the final point of the night on the third match point chance for the home team.
Halverson finished with six kills to lead the Bison and was joined by Lien as the only Bison with more kills than attack errors. Burke and Bachmeier each followed closely with five.
Bachmeier led the Bison defensive effort with 15 digs on the afternoon. Kallie Hegerle set up 19 of the Bison’s 23 kills.
NDSU visited Omaha on Sunday afternoon and are set to return home Tuesday night against Oral Roberts. The annual Pink Out match begins at 7 p.m. at Benson Bunker Fieldhouse.