The North Dakota State volleyball team had a successful trip to Florida, sweeping the competition at the FAU Invitational.
The Bison’s first win came against the Stetson Hatters Friday night. NDSU set the tone for the rest of the tournament with a 3-1 (25-22, 25-13, 23-25, 25-18) win.
The Bison struggled in the first set, hitting just .077. Despite the low hitting percentage, NDSU used a pair of four-point runs to close the set. The first came with the score tied at 14, which featured a pair of Bella Lien kills. With the Bison now trailing 20-21, another four-point run set the team to set point.
The second set came with an improvement in hitting for the Bison. Their hitting percentage went up to .219, as the Bison made quick work of the Hatters. Five NDSU players registered a kill in the set.
The Hatters bounced back to take the third set before the Bison put the match away. McKenzie Burke had six of her 15 kills in the final set. The total matched a career-high for the junior. Erika Gelzinyte had the final kill of the game, bringing her total to a career-high 18.
The second game of the weekend saw the Bison get out of the gates slowly against the hosts, Florida Atlantic. The Owls took set one, but the Bison bounced back to take a 3-1 (16-25, 25-18, 28-26, 25-20) victory.
Burke and Gelzinyte were the spark plugs again for the Bison in the second win. Burke totaled six kills in the set, and Gelzinyte another five.
The third set proved to be the critical one, as the teams had to go beyond the regular 25 points. In the set, there were 13 ties and six lead changes.
NDSU managed to get to set point at 24-22, but the Owls followed with a three-point run to extend the set. Lien had a pair of kills, and Gelzinyte added one more to take the set.
The Bison jumped out early in the fourth match and did not look back. Defensively, Mikaela Purnell reached the 30-dig mark for the first time of the season with 33. It was the senior’s eighth time hitting the 30-plus mark.
The final game of the weekend was the easiest for the Bison. An offensive explosion allowed the Bison to cruise to a 3-0 (25-13, 25-10, 25-10) win over Savannah State.
For the match, NDSU hit a season-high .410 in the rout. Offense was flowing from everywhere, as six Bison had multiple kills.
Even more offense came from the serves. NDSU finished with 10 aces in the match. Emilee McGowan and Abbi Klos each had three, while Burke and Brianna Rasmusson added a pair each.
For all the places the offense spouted from, one source was constant. Of the 39 assists collected by the Bison, 30 came from Rasmusson.
At the end of the weekend, Purnell was named tournament MVP. Rasmusson and Burke both gained all-tournament honors.
The Bison now gear up for Summit League play, starting next Sunday with a trip to South Dakota. NDSU returns home Sept. 29 to host Denver at Bentson Bunker Fieldhouse.