'Willingness to win': Titans fight off defensive-minded Miners
Sensing victory on the horizon, the Dickinson Trinity faithful rose to its feet at match point, as is custom inside the walls of the Knights of Columbus Activities Center.
When senior outside hitter Bre Tessier closed out the match with a kill, the Titans added another tally to the win column, defeating Beulah in straight sets, 25-21, 25-17, 25-17 on Tuesday, Sept. 25.
However, the action leading up to Tessier's final attack tells a different story than what a sweep suggests, as the Dickinson Trinity had to fight off surge-after-surge from the Miners to put this one away.
"We really fought hard tonight, and I'm really proud of our guys for fighting that hard," Miners head coach Brian Filibeck said. "We could of easily caved in tonight and not showed up to play, but we fought hard, so I'm proud of them."
Titans senior outside hitter Masy Kuntz connected on one of her game-high 12 kills on the night midway through the first set, pushing the Dickinson Trinity advantage to 13-9. After the two teams split the next eight points, Beulah went on an 8-1 run, highlighted by the defense of sophomore middle hitter Olivia Martens.
With the score at 18-17, Martens made a miraculous one-handed save near the bench before hurrying back on the floor, stepping to the front of the net and blocking a Titans attack to tie the game, giving the Beulah fans in the stands something to cheer about.
Dickinson Trinity head coach Breanna Sisson called timeout after the play. As much as Beulah showed its resilience, the Titans, at times, were their own worst enemy, committing 10 hitting errors in the opening frame.
"We just talked about cleaning up our errors and controlling what we can on our side of the net," Sisson said. "I think we had too many hitting and serving errors in the first set where we just kind of needed to regroup, get the ball over and just limit those errors."
After Beulah (10-12-1, 3-2 Region 7) went on top 21-18, Dickinson Trinity (20-3, 5-0 Region 7) went on a 7-0 run of its own. They regained the lead following a massive kill from sophomore middle hitter Amaya Willer, who closed out the set with a block.
The Titans appeared to have the upper hand to begin set two, jumping out to a 7-2 lead, but Beulah could not be held down for long, tying it at 7-7.
The Miners and their defense kept the visitors in it all night. Their blockers maintained movement at the front of the net while the backline, led by senior libero Whitney Hatzenbuhler, who finished with a game-high 11 digs, scrambled to get in position and dug out many hard-hit balls from Dickinson Trinity's powerful swingers.
"Trinity, they're a heck of a team, I tell you what. They have got a lot of hitters, do a lot of things offensively that's hard to defend, but the big thing from our tonight is that I thought we fought hard on defense," Filibeck said. "We were moving our block around, making some digs, just a lot of effort. We knew they were going to hit the ball hard and we had got to be scrappy."
After three consecutive service aces from senior outside hitter Trinity Doe, Beulah closed to within one, 18-17, but led by a pair of aces from Titans senior setter Alexa Walby, the home team again went on a 7-0 spurt to finish off a frame.
"Serves are the easiest way to get a point," Walby said. "I was a little frustrated with how I had been doing with the first set, so I wanted to pick it up for my team and play for them. I tried to get some good, aggressive serves in and it ended up working out."
The final frame featured five ties and for the third time saw the Titans ahead 18-17. While the final home-team surge was not a 7-0 run, but instead 7-1, Dickinson Trinity used kills from Kuntz and senior outside hitter Farrah Zeller to pull away.
"They definitely posed some challenges against us," Sisson said. "We just had to adjust in match, work our way around the block and work our way around their defense. ... I think it was just the willingness to win."
Dickinson Trinity 3, Beulah 0
B 21 17 18 — 0
DT 25 25 25 — 3
Kills: B, Kailey Zahn 4, Phoebe Garman 3, Camille Klindworth 2, Cassidy Nelson 2. DT, Masy Kuntz 12, Amaya Willer 11, Farrah Zeller 7, Bre Tessier 5, Abbey Kubas.
Blocks: B, Faith Schnabel 2, Nelson 1, Olivia Martens 1. DT, Kuntz 2, Am. Willer 2, Tessier 2, Alexa Walby 1, Kubas 1.
Aces: B, Trinity Doe 3, Garman 2, Whitney Hatzenbuhler 1. DT, Walby 3, Ali Daniel 2, Kuntz 1, Kelbi Jacobson 1.
Digs: B, Hatzenbuhler 11, Garman 1. DT, Kuntz 9, Tessier 9, Zeller 7, Daniel 6, Asia Willer 5, Walby 4, Jacobson 3, Kubas .
Assists: B, Klindworth 12. DT, Walby 32, Kuntz 1, Kubas 1.
Records: B, 10-12-1 (3-2 Region 7). DT, 20-3 (5-0 Region 7)