ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Bemidji State University volleyball team fell to two ranked Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference opponents in nonconference action Friday at the Radisson-Roseville/Concordia University Tournament, hosted by Concordia University. The Beavers (3-7, 0-0 NSIC) fell to No. 12 Southwest Minnesota State in the first match (26-24, 25-27, 16-25, 23-25, 10-15) and No. 1 Concordia in the second match (17-25, 9-25, 23-25).
The Beavers stunned the Mustangs in the first two sets, winning 26-24 and 25-17, but couldn’t find a way to tame the highly ranked opponent and complete the upset. The first set went back-and-forth between the two teams, as there were 10 lead changes. BSU owned a 21-17 advantage in the fist set, but SMSU stormed back and tied the set at 22-22. The two teams were tied 24-24 until the Beavers took the final two points with a block and kill, respectively. The start of set number two was dominated by SMSU, but after a timeout by BSU head coach Laurie Bitter at 3-7, the Beavers went on a 22-10 run to win the set. Freshman Samantha Hertaus (Libero/DS, New Prague, Minn.) served the final seven points of the set, which included two aces, one of which was the winner. The Mustangs showed why they are the 12th-ranked team in the nation in the third set with a 25-16 victory. The fourth set was the best chance for BSU to grab the victory, but the Mustang’s offensive power proved to be too much. At 16-14 SMSU, Bitter took a timeout to regroup. After the timeout the Beavers went on a 7-1 run to take a 21-17 lead. The lead didn’t last long and the Mustangs came back to tie the set 22-22. BSU and SMSU traded points and the score was tied 23-23, but a kill by Mustang Devin Diedrich and a block by Diedrich and Crissi Schewe pushed the match to a fifth and final set. The Beavers couldn’t find a rhythm in the fifth set and the Mustangs bore down on both offense and defense to take the set 15-10 and the match 3-2.
Sophomore Courtney Bitter (S, Bemidji, Minn.) established her career-high in assists with 52 and also added 17 digs (season-high) for her sixth double-double of the season. Junior Brie Groskreutz (OH, Reedsburg, Wis.) tied her career-high in digs with 33 and the mark is the second most in a match by a BSU player since 2001. She had 33 digs in four sets against St. Cloud State two years ago to the day on, Sept. 11, 2007. Groskreutz also added 10 kills for her third double-double of the season. Junior Nicole Olson (MB, Baudette, Minn.) led the Beavers in kills with 17 on 32 attempts for a .375 attacking percentage and had a team-high five blocks (1 bs, 4, ba). Junior Nicole Solum (RS, Spokane, Wash.) had her first career double-double with 12 kills and 11 digs. Freshman Bethany Thompson (OH/MB, Owatonna, Minn.) had a career-high 16 kills and Hertaus had a career-high 19 digs. The Beavers had seven service aces with just two service errors. The Mustangs had two service aces to five errors.
“This group is young, but we are good,” Bitter said. “We should have beat Southwest, no excuses. The team needs to be mentally tougher. We really had a tough preseason schedule, now we have to be ready for conference play.”
In the second match, BSU let the two-time defending NCAA champion intimidate them for the first two sets. In the third set, BSU hung with the Golden Bear big hitters and showed some teeth, closing the match on a 7-2 run. Bitter posted 22 assists and 12 digs for her seventh double-double on the season. Hertaus had 10 digs in the match. BSU was out-aced 10-1.
NOTES: BSU is 0-4 against ranked opponents this season, all of which have been in the top-15 in the nation...With the victory against BSU, Concordia ties the NCAA Division II record for consecutive matches won with 46, dating back to August 29, 2008, tying Ferris State’s 25-year-old record...BSU has taken a nationally ranked opponent to five sets for consecutive weekends.
BSU opens NSIC play and its home portion of the schedule Sept. 18 against Minnesota State University Moorhead at 7 p.m. and continues home conference action, Sept. 19 against the University of Minnesota Crookston at 3 p.m.
Bemidji State University, located in Bemidji, Minn., is an NCAA Division II institution and a member of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC).