Tigers beat Blue Hawks in season opener
Starting a season off at home isn’t as comforting as it sounds.
“We were all super excited to get out there, but obviously we were all a little nervous,” said Maddi Johnston, a junior outside hitter. “A lot of buildup coming out of the last two weeks of three-a-days, a lot of pressure coming in. But we got our jitters out so hopefully we can get better.”
After dropping the first set, DSU kept up with DWU and trailed by no more than two points in the second set. The Blue Hawks eventually captured the lead at 12-11 and built it up as much as 22-16. But freshman setter Tori Baumiller suffered a wrist injury to her setting arm and had to sit out the remainder of the set.
The Tigers went on a 8-2 surge and topped DSU 29-27.
“Our youth really showed out today,” DSU head coach Jon Stenman said. “While we don’t have a very young team, we do have a little bit of an inexperienced team as far as those who played last year. We got a little caught up under the spotlight, if you will.”
Facing a three-set sweep, Stenman challenged his team to play at its potential. DSU responded and easily took the third set, 25-17. Up one point early, 6-5, the Blue Hawks pulled away from the Tigers 13-7 and maintained a strong lead the rest of the set.
Johnston led DSU with 10 kills, four digs and tied for a team-high hitting percentage, .364, with Miranda Kadrmas, a newcomer to the team and former standout for Heart River. Tessa Sian and Shelby Gustafson each supplied nine kills and a dig, and senior libero Tasha Malana had a game-high 18 digs.
“(Coach) told us to get out of our heads and to take a second,” Sian said. “We need to play with enthusiasm, but we need to play smart. And these are the places we tried to work on, places that were open. Hit when we could, tip when we needed to and that kind of stuff.”
DWU had an edge in kills (58-41) and assists (55-38), and had three players finish with double-digit kills. Lauren Tadlock had 16 kills and 10 digs, Mallory Jark supplied 13 kills and Taylor Spence added 10 kills and three digs.
“The girls put in a hard two weeks of preseason and I felt really confident coming in,” DWU head coach Lindsay Wilbur said. “I saw our weaknesses. I know what to go and work on in practice, but I thought they played really well and their defense was there and really proud of them.”
The Blue Hawks have a week of preparation before they get a rematch against the Tigers. DSU travels to Mitchell, S.D., for the Corn Palace Invitational on Friday and faces DWU at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
Stenman said Saturday’s match wasn’t a total disappointment as he saw positives for the team to build off of, such as its passing and the hitting power of some players.
With its first-game jitters out of the way, Stenman expects to see the Blue Hawks be more relaxed on the road.
“I think it’s great that we play them again in less than a week,” Stenman said. “I’m looking for them to be challenged by the result today. We got some competitive girls on the roster and I really, truly believe they’re going to be upset and bothered by this result, and look to make amends for it next week.”
DWU 25 29 17 25 — 3
DSU 16 27 25 20 — 1
Kills: DWU, Lauren Tadlock 16, Mallory Jark 13, Taylor Spence 10, Sammy Fluck 9, Katie Vetch 8. DSU, Maddi Johnston 10, Tessa Sian 9, Shelby Gustafson 9, Brenna Hansen 7, Miranda Kadrmas 5.
Blocks: DWU, Jark 1. DSU, Hansen, 1.
Aces: DWU, mackenzie Stevens 2, Jark 1, Michelle Van Epps 1. DSU, Morgan Lutz 2, Tasha Malana 1, Shaylee Singleton 1.
Digs: DWU, Maggie Stehy 13, Tadlock 10, Van Epps 8, Stevens 5, Spence 3. DSU, Malana 18, Justine Braunagel 8, Singleton 6, Johnston 4, Tori Baumiller 4, Lutz 3, Ashleigh Aufforth 3.
Assists: DWU, Van Epps 54. DSU, Lutz 20, Baumiller 10, Aufforth 4.
Records: DWU 1-0. DSU 0-1.