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Press Photo by Meaghan MacDonald Dickinson State freshman Magdayln Rauser hits against Rocky Mountain College during a Frontier Conference match on Saturday at Scott Gymnasium.

Blue Hawks prepare for Frontier Weekend

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This weekend, the Dickinson State volleyball team has a pair of Frontier Conference matchups at home which could help put the team's own game into perspective.

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The Blue Hawks host the University of Great Falls at 4 p.m. today in Scott Gymnasium and Montana State-Northern at 2 p.m. Saturday. Both teams have qualities DSU can relate to as well as take advantage of while the team still searches for its first win.

Although Great Falls and MSU-Northern are two different teams on offense and defense, DSU head coach Jon Stenman said in order to be successful, his team needs to have the same mentality against both.

"We're going to play as good as our minds take us. If we're thinking positively we're going to take it right to Great Falls," Stenman said.

Libero Tasha Malana added: "We're trying to emphasize on having fun again. So we're trying to get our younger (players) start having fun and remember why they started playing again before they think too much."

Defensive state of mind

After watching Great Fall's film, Stenman found the Argos play a similar style of defense to DSU.

Statistically speaking, Great Falls' offense has not been good. They are currently ranked seventh in the Frontier conference in hitting percentage (.149) and eighth in kills per set (10.8). DSU is ranked last in both categories.

"Defensively, we're statistically better than them as far as digs per set," Stenman said. DSU ranks sixth in digs per set (15.3) and Tasha ranks 30th in the nation with 5.1 digs per set. "So hopefully we can take those added opportunities in those digs per set and feed our offense. If our offense is consistent and efficient, we have a chance to beat them."

The one thing the Argos have over the Blue Hawks is height. Great Falls' top three hitters, Alyssa McEwan, Madison Wilhelm and Becky Kershner, are 6-foot-1, 6-2 and 6-5, respectively. DSU is one of the shortest teams in the conference and has had problems with height and blocking all season. Setter Kelly O'Connor said the team will be able to keep up with Great Falls if they're able to play defense the way they have all year.

"I think that when our defense is the same, we know how to exploit their holes and exploit their weaknesses," O'Connor said. "We know what our weaknesses are and we can pick those out so it's a good thing to play against a defense similar to ours."

O'Connor, a transfer from Great Falls, looks forward every season to playing her former team and putting up a good fight.

"It's easily the most amped up I get ever, like when we played them last year it was easily the most intense game I've ever been in," O'Connor said. "These are the moments I thrive on; I love it when we are the underdogs in a situation like this."

Someone their own size

As the Blue Hawks have struggled with their lack of height, Saturday's matchup with MSU-Northern put each team on the same playing field as the Skylights are facing similar height deficiencies. MSU-Northern, however, have learned to work around the lack of height by running a fast and efficient offense.

The team overall ranks first in hitting percentage (.245), kills per set (13.1) and assists per set (12.2) in the Frontier conference.

"They make up with it in their offense," Stenman said regarding MSU-Northern's height. "They're not exactly skyscrapers, but they're smart with the ball. They're what we need to be."

The past two weeks the Blue Hawks have been working on pushing balls to deep corners in order to keep Northern off balance and give themselves a better chance to stay in system.

"I've watched their tape they don't do anything special, they run a basic 6-2 offense run some slides, couple 31s high to the outside," Stenman said. "If we can stop it, find some success and get around that block, we'll be very successful."

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Meaghan MacDonald
Meaghan is the sports reporter for the Dickinson Press, focusing primarily on Dickinson State athletics and rodeo. After graduating from James Madison University (Va.) in May 2013, she moved from New Jersey to North Dakota to start pursuing her career in sports journalism. 
(701) 456-1213
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