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Rocky thwarts DSU in Frontier volleyball opener

Press Photo by Dustin Monke Dickinson State junior Priscilla Frias, middle, and senior Sarah Zeibig, right, try to block an attack by Rocky Mountain College senior Jamie Elenblas, left, during a Frontier Conference volleyball match Saturday afternoon at Scott Gymnasium.

The flashes were there. The sustainability was not.

The Dickinson State volleyball team showed signs of marked improvement from early in the season but, aside from a stellar second set, were outgunned on Saturday afternoon against Rocky Mountain College.

The Battlin' Bears leaned on a tall front line and big runs to seal a 25-13, 25-27, 25-20, 25-10 victory over the Blue Hawks in the Frontier Conference opener for both teams at Scott Gymnasium.

"Definitely an improvement from the first time we stepped on the court, an improvement from last year, an improvement every day," DSU head coach Maura Bronte said. "It's just that we've kind of got to improve a little faster."

DSU (2-7, 0-1 Frontier) was close in both the first and third sets before Rocky pulled away.

The Bears led 11-10 in the first set before DSU errors led to a 9-1 run. Rocky closed the set with four unanswered points.

DSU kept the score close in the third set, rarely letting Rocky take more than a three-point lead, but couldn't get closer than two, 21-19. From there, Rocky freshman Mariah Stiffarm led a 4-1 run to end the set.

Rocky controlled the fourth and final set from the start, leading by as much as 22-6 at one point.

"One of our biggest issues is letting the other team get on runs," DSU junior outside hitter Melissa Avila said. "Once we let them get on runs, we hang back. We just need to cut their runs shorter and we'll be in every single game we play the rest of the season."

DSU showed glimmers of hope in the second set, rallying from a 14-6 deficit to take a 20-18 lead and then going back and forth to tie the match.

"We have those moments that come and go," said Avila, led the Blue Hawks with 16 kills, including eight in the third set, and 29 digs. "If those moments were to stay, we could be such a strong team. We have the manpower. We just have to fight throughout every single point like it's our last time we get to play this game."

Rocky, which is 6-9 overall with all of its losses coming against NAIA Top 25 teams, was led by a balanced performance up front.

Ester Timofeyev had 12 kills, Anna Dewald had 10, Jamie Elenbaas 9, Ahlea Billis 9 and Stiffarm 6.

"We're making a few mistakes right now," Rocky head coach Laurie Kelly said. "Defensively, we've got to get better. I've got to hand it to Dickinson's defense, but I think our hitters and our blocking was so much better."

Junior setter Kelly O'Connor had 25 assists and 16 digs to go with four kills and a pair of aces.

DSU has five days off before a road trip to Carroll College in Helena, Mont., at 7 p.m. Friday night and back to Havre, Mont., to face Montana State-Northern at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Bronte said now is the time for the Blue Hawks, a team still trying to get acquainted with each other on the court, to begin playing well together.

"We've got to get that mesh going," Bronte said.

RMC 25 25 25 25 -- 3

DSU 13 27 20 10 -- 1

Kills: RMC, Ester Timofeyev 12, Anna Dewald 10, Jamie Elenbaas 9, Ahlea Billis 9, Mariah Stiffarm 6, Tori Bertsch 2, BrieAnna Geck 1, Bethany Moullet 1. DSU, Melissa Avila 16, Kelly O'Connor 4, Priscilla Frias 4, Sarah Zeibig 4, Shaunda Dvorak 1, Ebony Sanders 1, Linaya Schroeder 1.

Blocks (solo-assists): RMC, Dewald 2-2, Timofeyev 2-0, Stiffarm 2-0, Billis 1-0, Bertsch 0-1. DSU, Shaunda Dvorak 2-4, Frias 1-3, Zeibig 1-2, Avila 0-2, Schroeder 0-2, Sanders 0-1.

Aces: RMC, Bethany Moullet 3, Bertsch 2, Michaela Hale 1, Jennifer Donaldson 1. DSU, O'Connor 1.

Digs: RMC, Elenbaas 24, Hale 20. DSU, Avila 29, Chelsea Seibel 21, O'Connor 16, Katelyn Christensen 13.

Assists: RMC, Bertsch 21, Moullet 19. DSU, O'Connor 25, Frias 2.

Records: DSU 2-7, 0-1 Frontier; RMC 5-9, 1-0 Frontier.

Dustin Monke

Monke came to The Dickinson Press in July 2006 as the newspaper's sports editor and was hired as its managing editor in March 2013. During his tenure at The Press, Monke has won multiple awards for sports reporting, feature reporting, column writing, page design and photography. He was a key part of The Press winning the North Dakota Newspaper Association's General Excellence and Sweepstakes awards in 2009 and 2012, and oversaw The Press' Sweepstakes and General Excellence wins in 2014, as well as its national first-place honors for Community Leadership in the Inland Daily Press Association and contributed to the first-place Inland award for Investigative Reporting. As the newspaper's editor, he writes an occasional Sunday column, is a member of The Press' Editorial Board, contributes feature stories and breaking news, designs pages, and oversees the day-to-day operations of the newsroom and editorial staff. In his free time, he enjoys watching sports and action movies, exercises whenever his schedule allows, and spends every minute he can with his wife and son.

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