Minot State wakes up

Early on Monday night, the Minot State University volleyball team exhibited shades of the group swept by Northern State University on Saturday.

The Beavers pumped out an unflattering .154 hitting percentage in dropping the first set to University of Mary at the MSU Dome.

Then they woke up, MSU junior pin hitter Jen Dixon said.

“It’s like our heads were in a different place the first set,” she said. “We learned from it, we made the change and went into the second set with a different mindset.”

After losing six of their last seven sets, the Beavers breezed through three in a row for a 3-1 (17-25, 25-18, 25-14, 25-21) Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference win over the visiting Marauders.

Mary (3-7 overall, 0-3 NSIC) recorded 15 kills in the opening set, including five by senior outside hitter Allison Opp and four on six swings by freshman outside hitter Alexis Jacobs.

The Marauders never trailed in the set and took a 21-14 lead with four straight points on Jacobs’ serve.

MSU (6-6, 2-1) held Mary to five kills in the second set and had 13 digs to the Marauders’ six.

The Beavers scored six straight points on junior setter Emily Byrne’s serve for a 15-8 buffer and easily held off Mary to even the match.

“Our block has been getting really strong,” Dixon said. “We have really tall middles. We’re not looking to get huge blocks. We set our block up so that our defense plays around it and I think we did a really good job of doing that.”

Dixon had a match-best 14 kills and led five Beavers with nine or more kills. Mallory Sall had 12, Tarah Dabovich 11, Lauren Dunkle 10 and Erin Davis 9.

MSU calmed down in the third and fourth sets, posting .393 and .438 kill percentages, respectively.

“I think we just started playing our game a little bit better,” MSU coach Travis Ward said. “We know that we’re pretty good offensively when we stay calm and we take the swings that we’re supposed to take.”

The Beavers pounded 32 kills in the final two sets as they continued to shut down the Mary attack.

“They served more aggressive, they set their outside a little bit more, which we were prepared for,” Mary coach Steve Novacek said, “but they did a nice job of doing things we couldn’t battle back from.”

Opp, a Hazen High School product, finished with 10 kills and Jacobs had a team-best 13 for Mary.

Byrne tallied 45 assists for the Beavers while Dunkle and Dixon had 11 digs apiece.

Last September, Mary swept MSU en route to the Beavers’ 0-5 start in league play. With a 2-1 NSIC record this year, the Beavers are showing more resolve, Ward said.

“With a young team, they’re going to have their ups and downs, and how do they respond to that is a big key in winning and losing,” Ward said. “I don’t think we responded well this weekend – we went down to Northern (State) – but did a much better job of responding tonight.”

Ryan Holmgren covers high school sports and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgrenMDN.