With the regular season quickly drawing to a close, the North Dakota State volleyball team (6-16, 4-7 Summit League) were in desperate need of a victory Tuesday night. The Bison accomplished just that, rallying from a two-sets-to-none hole to sink Oral Roberts 3-2 (23-25, 18-25, 29-27, 25-18, 15-10).
In the race for the Summit League tournament, the match was one that both sides could desperately use to bolster their standing. The match didn’t quite reach the severity of a must-win, but with both sides at the bottom of the standings, the margin for error was slim.
Both sides exchanged points in early stages of the first set. McKenzie Burke smoked a kill into the hardwood and followed up with a service ace to give NDSU an early 6-5 edge. The Bison held a lead midway through the set, but ORU kept within striking distance, preventing the hosts from leading by more than three points. The set quickly unraveled for the Herd from there.
The Golden Eagles snatched a 14-13 lead and nursed it for the rest of the opening frame. Bison head coach Jennifer Lopez called a timeout after a defensive miscue, which was followed by an authoritative kill from Burke. Still, ORU held both the momentum and the lead, keeping the Bison at bay.
It looked as if ORU had cracked when Allie Mauch darted a kill in front of the opposing sideline to tie the score at 19-19. Tied a whopping 14 times, the set hung in the balance, but two points in succession drew first blood for the Golden Eagles. Freshman Inka Inkret keyed the ORU attack, notching seven kills.
The Bison came out punching in the second set, buoyed by three straight attacking errors from ORU. NDSU was on the front foot and was organized offensively while the visitors struggled. With Abbi Klos in service, the Bison opened an early 6-1 lead, which grew to a six-point lead not long after. As quickly as the Bison pounced, things once again deteriorated.
With Inkret serving, the Golden Eagles carved into the Bison advantage. Another Lopez timeout could only briefly stop the bleeding, as ORU regained control. Bria Bergman’s ace capped a streak of six unanswered points for the Golden Eagles, which propelled them into the lead. The Bison used a bend-but-don’t-break approach to stay close, but they eventually faded, as ORU swiped the second set.
The switch finally flipped for Lopez’s squad in the third set. The Bison grabbed a five-point lead, making a much more concerted effort defensively. Inkret briefly restored order for the Golden Eagles, walloping a kill into the hardwood, but NDSU avoided the mid-set malaise that plagued them in the first two sets.
The Bison reached set point at 24-19, but an ORU surge had fans wondering if the home squad would cough up their lead this late into the set. The Golden Eagles tied the set at 24 points — and even led 26-25 — but could not deliver the final blow. ORU drove two straight balls into the net, gifting the Bison the third set victory.
With momentum and the Bentson Bunker Fieldhouse crowd back on their side, NDSU had all the control in the fourth set, leading by as many as nine points and tying the match. Oral Roberts continuously put themselves out of position offensively, and the Bison punished their lack of structure, picking apart the open spaces of the court.
Across 1o matches, neither side had won a five-set match. Courtesy of six kills — including the match winner — from Alexis Bachmeier, the Bison reversed the trend and escaped with a victory that could have massive implications come tournament time.
With five matches remaining, the Bison are only one game back of fourth place in the win column. Current occupants of the fourth and fifth slots, Purdue Fort Wayne and North Dakota have two fewer losses than NDSU.
Burke was the top contributor for the Bison, rifling 19 kills to go along with 22 digs. Mauch and Bachmeier also tallied double-digit kills.