When the in-state rival comes to town, the expectation is that it will be a must-see event.
For some North Dakota State volleyball fans, Friday’s match against the visiting Fighting Hawks of North Dakota was a couldn’t see. Signs on the doors of Bentson Bunker Fieldhouse read “Sold Out” a half hour from the opening serve.
The atmosphere of the old gymnasium was intense, as was the play on the court. In the end, the Fighting Hawks completed the regular season, defeating the Bison in four sets 3-1 (25-22, 25-22, 12-25, 25-16).
The 1,449 fans in attendance had barely made it to their seats when the Bison jumped out early. Allie Mauch had a pair of kills to open the match before Alexis Bachmeier served up an ace, and McKenzie Burke added another point for the Bison, jumping out to a 4-0 lead.
The four-point lead was the largest lead of the set. The Fighting Hawks stayed close and crawled back to tie the match for the first time at 11.
It was the first of seven ties in the opening set. The two sides swapped the lead, and three errors from UND gave NDSU a three-point lead.
As they have had all year, NDSU seemed to get the hard bit of luck. For not the first time of the night, Bison players looked toward the head official to give NDSU the point after an attack seemingly took a touch off the UND block. No such point was given.
Bison head coach Jennifer Lopez called her first timeout of the match and spent the first half of it chatting with the official.
The next point after the timeout saw Mauch look toward the official as her attack missed just wide, claiming another touch off the block. No call was given, and UND led 23-21.
Two kills from UND outside hitter Lydia Williams gave the Hawks the first set.
The visitors carried momentum into the second set, subduing the capacity crowd. Williams tallied three kills in a 5-1 run from the away side.
This time, it was the Bison who clawed their way back. Back-to-back kills from Emily Halverson gave the Bison a slight 15-14 edge.
UND responded with a quick 3-0 run to take the lead back. NDSU couldn’t come back again.
Just as they had two weeks ago in Grand Forks and for the fourth time this year at home, NDSU dropped into a two sets to zero hole.
“We need to put the pedal to the metal right away,” Bison libero Abbi Klos said. “We like to feel things out a little bit.”
And for the fourth time, the Bison came out and won the third set.
It was a dominant performance for the home team. Burke was active early with three kills in a 11-2 run for the Bison. Mauch and Halverson struck a kill down, and Bachmeier added another ace during the run.
NDSU hit .417 with 16 kills on 29 attacks, committing just four errors. It was the second highest hitting percentage for the Bison in conference play this season.
“We looked back at our first two sets and said, hey, it’s now or never,” Halverson said.
Two late kills by Mauch followed by the sophomore outside hitter combining with Kristin Tidd for a block gave NDSU the set.
The galvanized Bentson Bunker crowd propelled NDSU to an early lead in the fourth. Bachmeier hit a pair of kills during a 6-2 Bison run.
But UND took back control through Lexi Ahrens. The Fighting Hawk freshman struck three straight kills to give the visitors the lead.
Williams added two more of her game high 17 kills, as UND took a stranglehold of the match with a 5-0 run.
Ahrens struck two of her eight fourth-set kills down the stretch, and Alivia Fraase served up the match-winning ace.
For the Bison, the loss snapped a two-game win streak NDSU picked up last weekend.
NDSU dropped to 5-14 (3-5 Summit League) and hits the road for challenging tests at Denver and Omaha next weekend. The Bison return home for a key Summit League tilt against Oral Roberts at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 23.