Bison Volleyball fall to Fort Wayne

NDSU drop closer to playoff bubble

With the regular season entering the final stages, the North Dakota State volleyball team begins the push to the playoffs.

That push ran into a speed bump last Friday on the road at Purdue Fort Wayne. The Mastodons took care of the Bison in four sets (25-10, 20-25, 25-18, 25-23).

The Fort Wayne attack was a buzzsaw early, registering six kills in the first nine points to jump out to an 8-1 lead. For as efficient as the ‘Dons were, the Bison attack in the first set was the exact opposite.

NDSU tallied more attack errors than kills in the first set while Fort Wayne finished the set with 16 kills and a .429 hitting percentage.

Despite the competitive nature of the opening set, NDSU flipped the script in the second. The Bison slowly extended out a lead in the first half of the set, buoyed by three kills in four points from Maggie Steffen.

Despite a six-point lead, Fort Wayne came back with a 7-1 run to tie the set at 15-15 and then again at 18-18.

A kill from Emily Halverson sparked the Bison towards the set victory. Kills from Steffen, Alexis Bachmeier and Kristin Tidd closed the second set in the Bison’s favor.

The Mastodons responded by quickly jumping into a 10-4 lead in the third set. Three errors for the ‘Dons and another Steffen kill brought NDSU back into the set.

Fort Wayne opened the lead back up to nine and was comfortable the rest of the set. Despite another pair of kills from Steffen and a pair from Bachmeier, NDSU never got within five points of the set lead.

The fourth set was anything but a runaway for the home side. While Fort Wayne was able to pull out to a 4-1 lead, that would be the largest gap in the set. Tied 8-8, the two teams alternated the next 12 points. Bachmeier and Steffen each registered two kills and Bella Lien and Kallie Hegerle added one each in the six points NDSU won during that stretch.

In the tight game, Fort Wayne’s small 3-0 run and winning back-to-back points were enough to give the home team a gap. Despite an ace from Bachmeier, NDSU couldn’t recover from a three-point deficit, leading to Fort Wayne taking the set and the match.

Bachmeier led the Bison with 12 kills on the night and was joined in double digits by Steffen with a career-high 10. Hegerle led the team with 20 assists and Kaylee Hanger led the Bison with 16 digs.

The loss dropped NDSU to 10-13 (5-6 in Summit League), good for fifth in the standings entering matches on Sunday. NDSU has a two-game lead over the tie for sixth place between North Dakota and Western Illinois.

The Bison took on Western Illinois on Sunday after press time and NDSU also has a difficult remaining schedule. Next weekend features a road trip to the top-two teams in the league, South Dakota and Denver.

The Bison return home for the final week of regular season play to host North Dakota on November 12 and Oral Roberts on November 17.

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