The Dickinson State volleyball team is playoff bound.
With set scores of 25-19, 23-25, 25-17, 23-25 and 15-11, the Blue Hawks won 3-2 over Presentation College (S.D.), clinching the sixth seed in the tournament, on Friday, Nov. 2, at Scott Gym.
It will be Dickinson State's first appearance in the North Star conference tournament since 2016, when the team fell in the first round in five sets to Valley City.
"We never told them because you never want to put pressure like that on a kid," head coach Jennifer Hartman said. "But they knew we needed to win to seal our fate. So, we're going!"
Victory did not come easy.
With a 25-23 win in both the second and fourth sets, the Saints forced a fifth frame. Going into the night, the Blue Hawks were 1-6 in matches that went to five sets. This time was different, though.
Dickinson State pulled ahead 5-2, drawing a Presentation timeout. After the Saints rattled off back-to-back points to pull within three, 12-9, Hartman called a timeout of her own.
From there, a kill from freshman Cassie North and a pair of Saints errors put the Blue Hawks on top 15-11.
"We had a lot of heart, we just had too many errors, way too many errors," Presentation head coach Chelsey Albrecht said. "You're not gonna win when you have 35 hitting errors and 10 serving errors."
The Blue Hawks, who celebrated their four seniors ahead of the first serve, started strong. With senior setter Brianna Holland starting her first game of the year, she helped home team build a 6-1 lead. As the Saints went up 6-2, junior outside hitter Sydney Bentz went down with a left ankle injury, at which point North was inserted into the rotation.
"It was really heartbreaking," North said. "I knew right away that she was down and I knew that I needed to step up and just play for her the rest of the game."
A kill from North helped stretch a tie game into a 15-13 advantage, which later became a 25-19 opening-set win.
"Our heart goes out to Sydney. Losing her is really tough, but Cassie really stepped up," Hartman said. "People always wonder why we have such a deep roster, sometimes and those are the reasons why. Injuries happen and we need someone who can go in and swing hard and stuff. Cassie, although she's a freshman, she really swings away. We're really proud of how she's come around.
An ace from senior defensive specialist Makenzie Digesualdo ended the third, putting a 25-17 Blue Hawks win in the books. Digesualdo, who is ninth in the NSAA with 319 digs on the season, led the team with 20 on the night. Fellow senior defender Alli Hert followed with nine digs and also contributed an ace and two assists.
North came up big again to start the fourth. After Presentation went up 2-0, a frantic, last-ditch swat by North put the ball over the net, tying the game at two. The Blue Hawks pulled ahead 7-6, but like they did in the second frame, the Saints erased an early Dickinson State lead. Another kill from North, who finished with nine, tied the game at 17, but the Saints(11-17, 3-10 NSAA) tacked on the next three, prompting a Dickinson State (7-22, 5-9 NSAA) timeout.
"It's always hard because volleyball is such a game of momentum," Hartman said. "It's also a game of mistakes. So in huddles a lot of times, we just really preach that you have to shake the mistake off, like short-term memory loss, let it go and move on to the next point. You do get another chance right away, which is exciting, so all season we worked on it. Sometimes you just need a little reminder in the huddle."
A block from junior middle blocker Kadara Marshall got the Blue Hawks within one, 21-20, but Presentation came away with its second 25-23 set win of the night.
Senior outside hitter Olivia Stet led the Saints attack with 17 kills, while senior setter Maddie Goetz contributed 25 assists and three aces. Senior defensive specialist Joely Roe led all players with 36 digs.
As for the Blue Hawks, they were led by senior outside hitter Kylie Hadley for the second night in a row. She posted a whopping 19 kills and 10 digs, as well a team-high two aces.
"It feels pretty good," she said about making the playoffs. "I don't think it's set in yet. I don't think it'll set in until we get on the bus on Wednesday. It just feels like a win right now, and we love those."
Dickinson State 3, Presentation College (S.D.) 2
PC 19 25 17 25 11 - 2
DSU 25 23 25 23 15 - 3
Kills: PC, Olivia Stet 17, Jade Gallagher 13, Kayla Wolfe 9. DSU, Kylie Hadley 19, Alyssa Wisher 10, Cassie North 9, Kennedy Hildebrand 6, Ellie Hanser 6, Kadara Marshall 6.
Blocks: PC, Gallagher 5, Amber Cline 4. DSU, Marshall 2, Wisher 2, Hanser 2, Hildebrand 2, North 1.
Aces: PC, Maddie Goetz 3, Stet 1. DSU, Hadley 2, Alli Hert 1, Marshall 1, Keera Stookey 1, Makenzie Digesualdo 1.
Digs: PC, Joely Roe 36, Stet 16, Brooke Swanson 14. DSU, Digesualdo 20, Jenna Swope 17, Marshall 11, Hadley 10, Karlie Cleveland 10, Stooeky 9, Hert 9, North 6, Hanser 2, Hildebrand 2, Sydney Bentz 2, Wisher 1.
Assists: PC, Goetz 25, Swanson 21. DSU, Stookey 23, Cleveland 21, Swope 4, Hert 2, Hadley 1, Brianna Holland 1, Hanser 1, Digesualdo 1.
Records: PC, 11-17, 3-10 NSAA. DSU, 7-22, 5-9 NSAA.