Despite ultimately dropping a four-game match to the University of Minnesota, Crookston at the Minot State University Dome on Saturday night, MSU coach Travis Ward said he was happy with the way the Beavers played in a 25-22, 20-25, 25-22, 25-23 loss.
MSU (3-8 overall, 0-2 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference) was a few errors short of sending the match into a fifth game. MSU starts five freshman, and Ward said some of the mistakes were due to inexperience.
"We played outstanding today," Ward said. "For a young group we still had some young errors, made some mistakes. But we played well. So much better than what we played (in a 3-game loss to Bemidji State University on Friday). I'm absolutely happy with them. ... I honestly don't think Crookston's in that match if we play the way this team will play in a year. We're going to be a different-level team than them in the NSIC and I think our kids showed that they can play with NSIC teams."
Minot State University sophomore setter Mariah Zaback (9) watches the ball deflect off of two University of Minnesota, Crookston blockers during Crookston’s four-game win Saturday night at the MSU Dome.
The Beavers had a 10-6 lead early in the fourth, but Crookston (6-3, 2-0) responded with a 5-0 run to take the lead. The teams traded points for much of the remainder of the game until MSU used a 4-0 run to take a 20-19 lead.
The end of the game was clouded by several calls both coaches took an issue with. On one such play, the line judge ruled a Crookston player had tipped the ball. She was overruled and the point was replayed.
"We want to respect the game as much as we can but (the officials) have to be better than they were tonight," Ward said. "They trust the line judge the entire match, then at the end of it make a call against us. That's pretty tough to stomach."
Freshman outside hitter Mallory Sall had a match-high 19 kills for the Beavers on 43 total attacks.
"I'll walk away from this game and know there's stuff I can work on," Sall said. "That's what keeps me going."
MSU took the second game by using five runs of three or more points in a row. The Beavers compiled a hitting percentage of .314 in that game.
Senior middle hitter Shari Hewson had 11 kills and a .304 hitting percentage. Sophomore setter Emily Byrne collected 40 assists.
Ward said junior outside hitter Jen Dixon and freshman setter Alex Parrone will miss the remainder of the season with injuries.
The Beavers play at the University of Mary on Tuesday at 7 p.m.