Beavers take a set from top-ranked Concordia University
Friday, October 9, 2009

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Usually a team is down when only winning one set in a volleyball match, but the Bemidji State University volleyball team can hold its heads high, as it took the first set away from No. 1 Concordia University in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference play in 2009. The back-to-back reining national champion Golden Bears have now only lost three sets this season and their first in conference play to the Beavers, Friday night at the Gangelhoff Center. BSU (6-13, 3-6 NSIC) won the third set in the 1-3 (11-25, 13-25, 25-21, 18-25) loss to CU (20-0, 9-0 NSIC). The last time the Beavers took a set from the Golden Bears was Oct. 24, 2003.

“We are starting to do things we haven’t done in a long time at BSU,” said head coach Laurie Bitter. “We are pushing these top teams and this program is moving in the right direction.”

After falling quickly in the first two sets the Beavers had to regroup in the locker room during the intermission. Bitter asked her players, “We can take one set, right?” Her question was answered on the court as BSU went on to take the third set by holding the lead the whole set, starting from the first point. After the match was tied 1-1, BSU regained the serve after a CU service error and successive kills from junior Nicole Olson (MB, Baudette, Minn.) from sophomore Courtney Bitter (S, Bemidji, Minn.) put the Beavers up 4-1. BSU traded points with the Golden Bears until a CU service error, and kills from freshman Bethany Thompson (OH, Owatonna, Minn.) and sophomore Laura Slinger (OH, Faribault, Minn.) put BSU up 8-4. From that point on the Beavers would lead by at least three points until the Golden Bears cut the deficit to two at 19-21. A kill by Olson got BSU back on track and then she added another one for its 24th point. The 25th point came from the defense, as sophomore Melissa McNeely (OH, Burnsville, Minn.) and Slinger earned the block assists. BSU had a match-high 14 kills in the set, six by Olson. Five different Beavers earned a kill in the set, as BSU out-hit the mighty Golden Bears .200 to .175. CU had won its previous 12 matches by a 3-0 margin and its only other set losses came to nationally-ranked opponents.

“We played unbelievably well in that third set,” coach Bitter said. “It was fun.”

BSU was able to ride the momentum into the fourth set and were tied 8-8. The Beavers hung with the top-ranked team to a one-point deficit after an Olson kill made the score 11-10 in favor of CU. Unfortunately, the sleeping Bear awoke and went on a 7-2 run and took a commanding 18-12 lead that it wouldn’t relinquish.

Bitter posted 29 set assists and nine digs in the match. Olson had a team-high 13 kills and four blocks (3 ba, 1 bs), helping BSU to five team blocks to the Golden Bears’ six. Junior Brie Groskreutz (OH, Reedsburg, Minn.) had a team-high 14 digs.

Notes: BSU’s Slinger has a sister on the CU volleyball team, senior Mary Slinger, who posted a CU season-high 31 digs...The Golden Bears have now won 57 consecutive matches, adding to their NCAA record...CU had a season-high 23 attacking errors in the match...BSU recorded the seventh-highest attacking percentage against the Golden Bears this season at a .152 clip.

BSU continues the four-match road trip, Oct. 10, at St. Cloud State University at 5 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).