Mandan proves braver

The Minot High School girls volleyball team showcased a versatile and talented group in Tuesday’s home opener against Mandan.

Unfortunately for the Majettes, the impressive moments proved fleeting as mental errors took a toll and the Braves rallied from one game down to win 3-1 (23-25, 25-18, 25-23, 25-23) at Magic City Campus.

Mandan rattled off 10 straight points in the fourth game with the final nine points coming on the serve of senior defensive specialist Sara Aune.

Aune had her two aces of the match during the run as Minot scrambled to get in position throughout. Mandan junior Rachelle Harr softly pushed the match point over the net to an open front corner to cap the final game, which had Minot ahead by eight on three occassions.

“We were just really up and down, really hot and cold and we just couldn’t quite put it together when we needed to,” Minot coach Ellen Jebens said.

The Majettes (4-5 overall, 0-2 West Region) started fast by finding junior outside hitter Brooke Suko on the left side. Suko recorded three consecutive kills early and finished with eight of her team-high 14 in the first game. Senior Jerica Hanson connected on three aces in a 6-0 run in the first game, which Minot took 25-23.

“Brooke was hot first game,” Jebens said. “She was really hot. We were able to find her and she was aggressive. She started to struggle defensively and that took her out of her offensive game, unfortunately.”

The momentum shifted toward the Mandan hitters in the second game. The Braves (4-6, 1-2) started finding junior hitter Sasha Hopfauf, who finished with a match-high 15 kills and led Mandan with three aces. The Braves led by as much as 10 in the second game.

“We’ve been working a lot on keeping our mental game,” Mandan coach Anna Folk said. “We’re a pretty young but talented team right now, and I think we have been lacking that (mental game) in the past few matches.”

Mandan nearly squandered a five-point lead in the third game, but moved back toward Hopfauf on the right side and she closed the frame with two kills in the final three points.

“She’s kind of one of the kids that had grown mentally,” Folk said. “I think she’s always had those shots. It’s just keeping her head above water and making sure she stays on track.”

Senior setter Ashley Gathman continued her strong start to the season with game highs in assists (26) and digs (24). Mandan junior setter Madysen Zander recorded a team-high 25 assists and Aune led the Braves with 21 digs.

“We just let stuff get to our head and it just went down from there,” Suko said. “We need to focus on our own mistakes and what we’re doing and if we mess up, go and correct the next one.”

Minot looks for its first region win at St. Mary’s on Thursday.

Tim Chapman covers Minot High School athletics. Follow him on Twitter @chapmatp.