The Dickinson State volleyball team continued its strong play against the top teams in the North Star Athletic Association on Saturday, but the Blue Hawks eventually succumbed to the visitors from Bellevue (Neb.) University.
The Bruins entered ranked No. 19 in the nation and winners of 11 of their last 12, but the Blue Hawks made them work for Saturday's three-set win. The Bruins won by 25-20, 25-23, 25-20 at Scott Gymnasium.
"We seem to struggle in the beginning, so it seems like we're always playing catch-up," Dickinson State head coach Jen Hartman said. "We have to learn to come out more aggressive from the beginning and be the team that gets ahead."
The Blue Hawks (4-10, 2-4 NSAA) had suffered four-set losses to Jamestown and Viterbo, which are both ranked in the top 25, in the last two weeks, so Bruins head coach Trish Siedlik knew to be mindful of DSU playing well against tough competition.
"We honor them completely," she said. "They took a set from Viterbo at Viterbo on their home court, and they played Jamestown very tight. They're a stronger team, by far, than the past years, but their out of system stuff was something we honored. We knew they would be scrappy."
The Bruins (18-4, 6-1 NSAA) led by as many as five points early in the first set, at 9-4, but the Blue Hawks kept it close, getting to within one at 19-18. The teams traded the next two points before Bellevue won the final four to win the first game.
Bellevue opened a 9-4 lead in the second set, as well, and eventually pushed it to 15-10. The Blue Hawks won the next six points to take a slight edge. DSU also held leads of 18-16 and 21-20, but the Bruins won five of the last seven points to take a 2-0 lead into intermission.
"Our confidence is really high right now, but I think we need to do a better job of coming together as a team and pushing each other to our full potential," DSU sophomore Kennedy Hildebrand said. "We're just trying to get the first-ball kills right away. We want to start with really aggressive serves and starting strong. We want to push other teams."
Hildebrand tallied five kills on six attacks against Bellevue, and she supplied four blocks.
The Blue Hawks and Bruins battled through the early going of the third set until the latter went ahead 13-10. Four straight points gave DSU the edge again, and the teams traded decisions until the Blue Hawks led 18-17. Bellevue then went on a six-point spurt that effectively ended the match.
"We hustle, we work hard. We're still getting things worked out, positionally, and trusting each other," Hartman said. "When Bellevue's ranked 19th, it's nice to play them tough, but you still want to start eliminating your mistakes on your side and taking care of the ball a little better."
Kylie Hadley and Ellie Hanser each had six kills to lead the Blue Hawks. Shelby Gustafson added three kills and six blocks.
Bellevue's Shayla Scanlan came in as a point of emphasis for the Blue Hawks, and she was limited to eight kills and a .136 hitting percentage. Mikayla Gillespie led the Bruins with 11 kills.
The Blue Hawks return to action on Friday, Oct. 6 at Valley City State.
Bellevue 3, Dickinson State 0
BU 25 25 25 - 3
DSU 20 23 20 - 0
Kills: BU, Mikayla Gillespie 11, Rachel Wald 9, Shayla Scanlan 8. DSU, Ellie Hanser 6, Kylie Hadley 6, Kennedy Hildebrand 5, Shyanne Gilcrist 4, Shelby Gustafson 3, Sage Collins 2, Keera Stookey 1.
Blocks: BU, Gillespie 3, Hope Lambrecht 2. DSU, Gustafson 6, Hildebrand 4, Hadley 2, Collins 2, Gilcrist 1.
Aces: BU, Wald 3, Taylor Holz 1, Maddie Squiers 1, Fabiola Aviles 1. DSU, Brianna Holland 3, Makenzie Digesualdo 2.
Digs: BU, Holz 9, Andrea Carson 6, Squiers 4. DSU, Hadley 10, Shaylee Singleton 8, Stookey 8, Hanser 6, Alli Hert 3, Holland 3, Ali Joslyn 1, Gustafson 1, Sarah Dobitz 1.
Assists: BU, Squiers 37, Holz 1. DSU, Stookey 12, Holland 9, Digesualdo 2, Hadley 1, Gilcrist 1.