In addition to sweeping Minot State University on Saturday, the No. 3-ranked Minnesota-Duluth volleyball team provided a blueprint for how MSU coach Travis Ward wants his team to play.
The Bulldogs (17-1, 8-1 Northern Sun) defended well and were nearly error-free in their hitting for the opening two games of the match. The result: an easy 25-8, 25-14, 25-20 UMD victory at the MSU Dome.
"It's what we train our kids to do, we're just not as good at it yet," Ward said. "We'll get there. It's not magic. That's championship volleyball right there. They did exactly what they were supposed to do to win, and they took care of business."
Minot State University senior Shari Hewson, right, hits against the block of Minnesota-Duluth’s Monica Turner (11) and Maddy Siroin (12) during a match Saturday at the MSU Dome.
UMD won 16 of the match's first 20 points as freshman setter Ashley Hinsch distributed the ball to a number of potent hitters. All-American outside hitter Kate Lange was particularly dominant, finishing with a match-high 12 kills despite sitting out most of the third game.
"Any time you're on the road, I think it helps to get going fast," UMD coach Jim Boos said. "We've been a slow-starting team so far this year with the exception of a couple matches."
MSU (4-15, 0-9) couldn't hang with UMD in the second game, either. After MSU's Erin Davis notched a kill to make it 6-6, the Bulldogs went on a 12-4 run to gain separation.
The Beavers were more competitive in the third game, playing to a 17-17 tie before the Bulldogs made winning plays down the stretch.
"We got in the locker room and we just discussed that we need to be more aggressive and ... we are a good team," MSU sophomore right-side hitter Mariah Zaback said. "We just have to have the confidence to go out there every single day and play like that."
Ward said the Beavers' blocking and defense improved in the third game. After UMD tallied just four hitting errors in the first two games combined, the Bulldogs had 11 in game three.
"We responded better defensively in the last game, made them swing a lot more," Ward said. "If you look at the stats, they had almost as many swings in the third game as they did in the first two games combined. We put a lot more pressure on 'em and they made some mistakes."
Freshman outside hitter Mallory Sall led the Beavers with 10 digs and seven kills. Senior Shari Hewson also had seven kills, but was targeted on several of UMD's nine service aces.
The Beavers were ultimately outclassed by one of the top teams in the country, but Ward is looking forward to seeing his team's progress before a Nov. 9 trip to Duluth.
"They're a good team," he said. "We're excited to play them again in a month and see how we grew and those types of things. I guarantee you there won't be a 25-8 game."
MSU hosts five-time defending national champion Concordia-St. Paul (Minn.) at 7 p.m. on Friday. The Golden Bears are ranked No. 6 nationally.