After Tarah Dabovich put the final kill of Minot State University's 3-0 sweep of Valley City State to the floor, the 6-foot-2 freshman middle hitter shared a couple chest-bumps with her teammates.
It was a rare moment of celebration for the Beavers, who snapped an eight-match losing streak with a 25-17, 25-20, 25-17 victory Tuesday at the MSU Dome.
"They're not in our conference, but it feels good either way to win," Dabovich said. "It kind of helps our spirits a bit."
Minot State University freshman Tarah Dabovich, right, and sophomore Mariah Zaback (8) block Valley City State’s Alley Theroux during a match Tuesday at the MSU Dome.
The Beavers (4-11) were able to get their offense flowing against the NAIA-affiliated Vikings (4-13). Freshman Mallory Sall ripped a match-high 12 kills, senior Shari Hewson chipped in 10 and Dabovich added nine.
"For a young group of kids it's just really fun to show them that they are improving, and they're growing and developing as a team," MSU coach Travis Ward said. "It's nice to not be playing nationally ranked teams every week. It's kind of nice to step back from that for one match and make them realize ... all this stuff we've been working on pays off as they do it and do it consistently."
MSU never trailed in game one, but VCSU pulled within 16-15 on a kill by sophomore outside hitter Alley Theroux. The Beavers responded by winning nine of the final 11 points of the game to take a 1-0 lead.
The Vikings led early in the second game but Dabovich gave the Beavers a cushion midway through the game by tallying two kills, a block and an ace in a 10-point stretch. VCSU rallied to make it 21-19 in favor of MSU, but Sall had two consecutive kills and Dabovich added another to help the Beavers finish the game.
MSU won the first six points of game three and was never threatened.
"We didn't play as good of defense as I would've liked to have seen and they took it and ran with it," VCSU coach Susan Kolbow said. "They spread their offense well, they took it to their middles and outsides, and there were times when my middle (blockers) didn't have a clue who was going to get the ball."
MSU sophomore setter Emily Byrne distributed the ball effectively, dishing out 37 assists.
"She averaged a little over 12 assists per game," Ward said. "That's right up with the best in the Northern Sun. I think if we can get her a ball, she's as good as anybody at moving it around. But we gotta get it to her all the time and that's not easy with a young group of passers."
Ward and Dabovich both said the key to the Beavers faring better against Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference competition is making better passes to set up their offense. MSU passed well Tuesday against the Vikings, whose attackers are smaller and less powerful than those in the NSIC.
"The key is passing," Dabovich said. "Because once Emily can do her thing, it's amazing."
The Beavers return to conference play at 7 p.m. Friday at Wayne State College (Neb.). The Wildcats (11-3 overall, 4-1 NSIC) are the 20th-ranked team in NCAA Division II.