Beavers fall to No. 10 Bulldogs in five set thriller
Tuesday, October 6, 2009

DULUTH, Minn. -- For the second consecutive match and the fourth time this season, the Bemidji State University volleyball team scratched and clawed its way to five sets against a nationally-ranked opponent. For the second consecutive match and fourth time this season, the young BSU squad fell just short. This time it was the No. 10 Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs that defeated the Beavers in five, (25-21, 17-25, 23-25, 25-23, 7-15). The Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference match at Romano Gymnasium lasted one hour and 48 minutes before a victor was decided.

“We are learning how to fight,” said head coach Laurie Bitter. “We are playing these top teams close, the next step is to beat them. We’ve been lacking mental toughness all year, but we are getting closer.”

Junior Nicole Olson (MB, Baudette, Minn.) led the offensive attack for the Beavers (6-12, 3-5 NSIC) with a career-high 25 kills, surpassing her previous high-water mark of 20 that she accomplished just four days ago, Oct. 2, at home in a 3-2 win against Augustana. Olson was huge in the first set, earning three blocks in a BSU run that turned a 16-18 deficit into a 21-18 lead. She was also instrumental in closing out the set, scoring three of the final four Beaver points with big kills. In the set, she posted seven kills and four blocks. She had a .500 attacking percentage in the match against a Bulldog (15-3, 8-0 NSIC) team that is ranked third in conference matches this season in opponent attacking percentage.

The set loss woke-up UMD and they took the second set in quick fashion, winning 25-17, before heading to the locker room for the intermission. The Bulldogs came out strong in the third set and took a 5-2 lead, but BSU went on a run of its own and tied the match at five a piece. After trading points, the Bulldogs went on another run and owned a 16-11 advantage. The Beavers were relentless and charged back to tie the set 16-16. More back-and-forth play led to a tie score at 22-22, but then UMD went on lock-down and took the set 25-23.

So here they were again. For the third straight match the Beavers were facing a 1-2 set deficit. A year ago BSU may have phoned-in the last set and headed for home, but not this season. For the third straight match the Beavers played tough and stole another fourth set from a strong opponent. BSU made it interesting, as the two teams were tied five times before one side could score its 13th point of the set. UMD was the first to 13 and then stretched its lead to 20-16. The Beavers bounced back and went on a 6-1 run and secured a 22-21 lead, thanks in part to three kills from Olson and two service aces from freshman libero Samantha Hertaus (New Prague, Minn.). BSU scored two of its last three points on service errors by the Bulldogs, including the final point to win the set 25-23.

The fifth set ended just like Saturday night against No. 22 Wayne State with a 7-15 loss in the fifth and final set. BSU held a 5-2 advantage in the final frame, but with too many weapons for the Bulldogs, UMD took the set and the match.

The Beavers were able to do some things against the Bulldogs that few other team shave done this season. BSU handed UMD just its 16 and 17th set loss of the season, only fourth and fifth set losses in NSIC play and second and third set losses at home in 2009. Oddly enough, the only two teams to take a set from UMD in NSIC play this season are Winona Stae (2) and Augustana (1), both of which BSU defeated in 2009. The last set BSU took from the Bulldogs was Oct. 10, 2003 and the last time the Beavers took two was in the last win against UMD on Sept. 30, 1998.

Sophomore Courtney Bitter (S, Bemidji, Minn.) had 43 set assists in the match. Olson’s 25 kills was a match-high and she added five blocks. Junior Brie Groskreutz (OH, Reedsburg, Minn.) had a team-high 16 digs and moved into sole possession of ninth on BSU’s career digs chart (since 1980). Freshman Laura Carlson (OH, Hutchinson, Minn.) had 10 digs and sophomore Laura Slinger (OH, Faribault, Minn.) had 12 kills for the Beavers. Hertaus added a career-high four service aces.

BSU continues the four-match road trip, Oct. 9, at No. 1 Concordia University at 7 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).