Blue Hawks beat VCSU to snap skid, give interim coach Jennifer Hartman 1st win
The Dickinson State student section at Scott Gymnasium began their chant a bit premature.
But it didn't seem to matter.
The Blue Hawks had Thursday night's match against Valley City State firmly under control by the time students began cheering for one of their own: "Coach Hartman."
DSU gained control early and got better as the match went on to claim a 25-23, 25-21, 25-19 nonconference victory, snapping an eight-match losing skid and giving 22-year-old interim head coach Jennifer Hartman her first coaching victory less than a year after she stepped off the court for the final time in a Blue Hawk uniform.
"It's pretty much surreal right now," Hartman said. "I don't think it's hit yet, but the girls played amazing and I was just so proud. I've never had a prouder moment in this gym. Tonight was the night. They gave it their all."
It has been an interesting season for the Blue Hawks, who improved to 3-13.
Head coach Maura Bronte resigned on Sept. 18 in the middle of her second season.
It abruptly forced Hartman, who was a senior under Bronte last season and had been helping her as a student assistant coach this fall, into the head coach position.
In her fifth year as a DSU student and trying to finish her degrees in elementary education and coaching, Hartman has responded to her new duties in an unbelievably calm and mature manner.
That demeanor has fed into her team, which fought through a tight first set, pulled ahead late to win the second set and took firm control of the third set to clinch the sweep.
"It feels great," said DSU senior Shaunda Dvorak, a Dickinson native who had 10 kills, three blocks and came up with big plays throughout the match. "It'll boost our confidence that much more. It proves to us and everyone else that we're such a great team, such a tight team and such a big family that we can go through anything and we can still come out on top."
With VCSU leading 18-16, a kill by Dvorak and an ace from Rebecca Johnson, also a Dickinson native, helped turn the tide in the first set.
After falling behind 21-19, Dvorak had a spike that sent a Vikings player tumbling and sparked a four-point run that set up the win.
Junior Melissa Avila closed out the first set with a kill, which proved a big momentum boost for her going into the second set.
She had 20 assists, 11 digs, four kills, two aces and a block and was dynamic in the second set. As was Dvorak, who had five kills in the set.
"I really liked that they played smart but they played aggressive," Hartman said. "They knew when to go for the big kill and when to go for the tip. Tonight it was just spot on."
Linaya Schroeder, who had six kills, pushed DSU over the top in the third set with back-to-back kills -- including a hard-hit, cross-court ball into the far back corner to give Dickinson a 16-13 lead.
Sarah Zeibig had 10 kills and expanded DSU's lead with three kills over the next few minutes to give the Blue Hawks match point at 24-17. They won on a VCSU attacking error.
DSU benefited big from VCSU's inconsistency at the service line. The Vikings (6-18) committed 14 serving errors, seven in the first set and six in the third.
"If you're not mentally prepared, that's what's going to happen," VCSU head coach Susan Kolbow said. "You're going to go out and serve the ball out of bounds and into the net. Overall, in the match, we got outworked. They worked much harder than us. They were more excited than us and it paid off for them. They did a great job tonight."
As did the Blue Hawks' new coach, who just three weeks ago was thrust into a seemingly no-win situation.
It only took Hartman five matches to prove that otherwise.
"All I'm here is with a clipboard," Hartman said, humbly. "They (the Blue Hawks) did all the work tonight. They did amazing."
VCSU 23 21 19 -- 0
DSU 25 25 25 -- 3
Kills: VCSU, Jill Noeske 8, Aurissa Martens 6, Gianesi Tarafa 5, Anna Neufeld 3, Alley Theroux 3, Rachel Hummel 2. DSU, Shaunda Dvorak 10, Sarah Zeibig 10, Linaya Schroeder 6, Melissa Avila 4, Ebony Sanders 3, Priscilla Frias 1, Kelly O'Connor 1.
Blocks: VCSU, Theroux 1. DSU, Dvorak 3, Zeibig 1, Avila 1.
Aces: VCSU, Hummel 1. DSU, Avila 2, Alexxus Fisher 2.
Digs: VCSU, Emily Plowman 10, Neufeld 5, Martens 4. DSU, Avila 11, Chelsea Seibel 9, Katelyn Christensen 4, Rebecca Johnson 4, Kelly O'Connor 2, Ebony Sanders 2.
Assists: VCSU, Neufeld 22. DSU, Avila 20, Kelly O'Connor 8.
Records: DSU 3-13, VCSU 6-18.