On a night featuring a packed house and a multitude of alumni, the North Dakota State volleyball team dropped the opening match of Summit League play against the University of South Dakota. The Coyotes’ offense was swinging in a 3-2 (25-12, 23-25, 21-25, 25-17, 15-9) win.
The roof of the Bentson Bunker Fieldhouse was about to come off as 1,369 fans crammed into the gymnasium.
But as a testament to the build quality of the old building, the energy around the floor seemingly never permeated into the Bison locker room pregame.
NDSU came out flat in the opening set. The same could not be said about the team on the opposite side of the net.
A combination of outside hitter Hayley Dotseth and middle blocker Taylor Wilson led the Coyotes’ charge. Each had a pair of kills during an early USD 5-0 run.
NDSU put up a fine defensive effort, but consistently came up short. A number of Coyote kills came off the Bison block and fell to the floor.
A 7-1 run killed off the Bison, and USD was in command with the 25-12 set victory.
The Bison could not find an offensive groove in the opening set. NDSU committed more errors than kills with six errors compared to four kills. Both Dotseth and Wilson each had more kills than the whole of the Bison team with seven and five, respectively.
The second set picked up right where the first left off. USD jumped out to a quick 7-1 and looked ready to roll.
But NDSU countered. In her only involvement of the match, freshman Maggie Steffen tallied kills, sandwiching kills from Kalli Hegerle and McKenzie Burke as the Bison went on a 6-0 run to tie the frame.
Over the course of the set, NDSU stretched their lead up to four. A 4-0 run from the Coyotes knotted the set up at 20-20.
Down the stretch, NDSU had four different players collect kills. Allie Mauch, Alexis Bachmeier and Burke all found the floor before Emily Halverson took credit for the final kill of the set.
Bachmeier’s big swing on the first point set the tone for the third set for the Bison. NDSU quickly jumped out to a 5-1 lead after kills from Burke and Halverson.
Hegerle started to turn up the volume at BBF. A sneaky kill to the unsuspecting Coyotes was followed up with a big block on the next play as NDSU went up 10-4.
She then made it an eight-point game with a service ace to make it 15-7.
“I think I saw a different perspective of the court, which helped a lot,” Hegerle said on her third-set performance.
USD stormed back with six unanswered points to close the gap. That gap was cut down to one as Mauch’s attack missed the line. Bison head coach Jennifer Lopez had a discussion with the official, claiming the ball came off the Coyotes’ block.
That discussion was the spark that was needed to take the Bison over the line. The next Bison kill off the hand of Burke led to an explosive crowd response inside the gym.
NDSU took the set and the momentum and needed one more set to take the match.
It was not meant to be, however. The visitors jumped out early and never looked back.
The Bison kept it close, never letting the gap grow more than four points.
NDSU seemed to have captured momentum as Burke smashed one down the line. But the play was called back due to a blocking error on the Bison, and the ‘Yotes took the point.
With the wind taken from their sails, the Bison allowed a 7-1 run and were forced to play their first fifth set of the year.
“We expected a game, and we expected a fight, and it was cool to see us fight,” Bachmeier said.
The Coyotes took control of the fifth set with a kill from Dotseth followed by two aces from Madison Jurgens as part of a 5-0 run.
Mauch collected a pair of kills down the stretch for the Bison, but it was not enough.
Back-to-back kills from Wilson followed kill No. 23 on the night for Dotseth, finishing off the Bison.
Burke led the Bison with 11 kills on the night and collected the “double-double,” adding 15 digs. Mauch finished with 10 kills. Hegerle registered 36 assists to go along with four kills and two aces.
NDSU dropped to 2-10 (0-1 Summit League) with the loss.
NDSU played Omaha on Sunday after press time and goes into a busy week. First up, a trip to Grand Forks to face Summit League newcomers North Dakota on Wednesday. The Bison return home 7 p.m. Friday night to take on South Dakota State.