On a quiet Sunday afternoon at North Dakota State, the crowd was roaring at Bentson Bunker Fieldhouse when the Bison volleyball team took on the Omaha Mavericks. In their second game of Summit League play, the Bison failed to finish out their near comeback in a 2-3 (14-25, 12-25, 25-23, 25-22, 11-15) loss.
The Bison came out tough, but so did Omaha. NDSU outside hitter McKenzie Burke started the game with a kill on the opening point. However, Omaha immediately struck back with a kill from Sadie Limback.
The play went on with almost zero defense until the teams were locked at 14-14. The Mavs then finished out the set with 11 unanswered points.
In the first set, a pair of Omaha players had five kills each. That’s more kills than the three produced by the entire NDSU lineup.
After a poor showing in the first set, the Bison were looking to come out strong. However, the Bison couldn’t keep up with the strong Omaha offense.
The set started with both a kill and an ace from Omaha. A kill from Burke brought the score closer, with the Bison only trailing 5-7.
NDSU kept the gap within five, but the Mavs won nine of 10 points, finishing off the set with a kill from Limback.
The Mavs shined on the offensive side with only one error and 19 kills. Senior Abby Bergsten collected five herself.
“We were embarrassed how we played,” sophomore Alexis Bachmeier said regarding the performance of the first two sets.
When the teams came out of the locker rooms for the third set, Burke started the Bison off strong with a kill. With the score at 5-2, NDSU was leading for the first time since the beginning of the first set.
However, Bergsten came up with four kills in only seven points to close the gap. UNO regained the lead 10-8 in that stretch.
The Bison came back strong with a 4-1 streak helped by kills from Alex Erickson and Emily Halverson and an ace from freshman Paige Schaffer. The short burst tied the score at 16-16.
After a back and forth battle, NDSU took the set with a close 25-23 win. The Bison scored 15 kills, nearly the total of NDSU kills scored in the first two sets combined. Erickson produced five of these kills while committing zero errors.
With a newly energized crowd, the Bison went into the fourth set looking revitalized and prepared. Omaha came in hot, though, scoring the first three points with two kills from mid-blocker Isabella Sade.
The Bison brought the score to a tie at 6-6. Tie scores would be the story of the set with a total of 12 tie scores throughout.
After reaching 21-21, Omaha committed three attack errors in only five points, allowing NDSU to win their second set, bringing the game score to 2-2.
Omaha’s Claire Leonard’s seven kills during the fourth set were not enough offset the teams nine total errors.
When asked what changed in the third and fourth set, Erickson said, “We were willing to fight and willing to trust ourselves and each other, and it all came together.”
The crowd was on its feet at the start of the fifth set, and their energy transferred onto the court where the Bison started with an early 7-4 lead, with four kills and an ace from freshman Kalli Hegerle.
However, Omaha found its stride and scored three unanswered kills, making it 7-7. Their dominance continued, and they went up 8-4 to win the set 15-11.
“It was disappointing. I think we could have ended better … than how it went,” Bachmeier said about losing in the fifth set.
Omaha took the Sunday match 3-2, holding off a near NDSU comeback after being down 2-0.
The stats show a strong Mavericks offense with five of their players reaching double-digit kills versus NDSU’s one, Alexis Bachmeier. Omaha’s total kills nearly doubled that of the Bison.
Hegerle silently shined with 33 of NDSU’s 37 assists, and Bachmeier and Erickson scored half of the Bison’s kills in the last three sets.
“It’s hard to come back after a 0-2 loss … I thought we handled that well,” head coach Jennifer Lopez said about the Bison’s performance.
The Bison have a full week of Summit play ahead of them, playing at North Dakota on Wednesday and taking on the South Dakota State Jackrabbits at home 7 p.m. Friday.