The Bismarck High volleyball team kept sets close Thursday.
But at the end of the day, Grand Forks Red River had Hadley Steffen. The North Dakota State University commit compiled a match-high 25 kills and tallied 13 digs, helping the Roughriders take a four-set win (25-21, 25-23, 24-26, 25-20) in the first round of the Class A state tournament at the Minot State University Dome.
"We were a little rusty," Steffen said. "We were a little shaky. All the jitters in us. We were nervous, but I think it cleared out and we finally played our game as a team."
Defending champ and East No. 1 Red River fell behind in each of the first two sets. A 4-0 Roughriders run put the West's No. 4 seed away in the first.
Down 22-20 in the second, Red River went on another 4-0 streak. Steffen kills accounted for four of her team's final five points in the set.
"Sometimes I get that one kill and they just keep feeding me the ball, feeding me the ball," Steffen said. "I do my job and put the ball away for the team."
In game three, it was Bismarck's turn to rally. Down 10-1, the Demons scored 11 of the next 14 points to climb within striking distance. A 6-1 run erased a 20-16 deficit later in the set before a Steffen error and a kill from junior middle blocker Natalee Todd gave the game to Bismarck.
"We haven't played a lot of three-set matches this season," Red River coach Carolyn Olson said. "We're pretty comfortable coming back and recovering after we don't win a set. Kids just walk back out onto the court and focus on every point at hand."
The Roughriders had little trouble doing that in the fourth. Red River jumped out to an 11-7 lead, built the gap to 22-15 and was never seriously threatened after that.
The final result is a reversal from earlier this year, when Bismarck beat the Roughriders 2-1 in an early-season tournament.
"We're a totally different team from the beginning of the season," senior outside hitter Cassidy Bush said. "We have matured and we've gotten better throughout the season. But yeah, we came in this thinking we could lose so we put 100 percent effort into everything and came out with a win."
Steffen's kill total was three shy of a tournament record. Senior middle blocker Kaitlin Anderson had 13 kills and Bush tallied eight. Senior setter Payton Salquist had 45 assists.
Junior outside hitter Ashlee Hilzendeger totaled 18 kills and junior setter McKenzie Kiefer recorded 38 assists to lead the Demons.
Red River plays West Fargo tonight at 6 in the semifinals. Bismarck plays Jamestown at noon in a consolation match.