Sharing the load

Balanced MSU volleyball sweeps rival U-Mary

Sean Arbaut/MSU Athletics Minot State junior outside hitter Jeanne Brenner (13) attacks the ball in an NSIC match Tuesday evening against the University of Mary at the MSU Dome.

One moment it was Jeanne Brenner. The next, Emily Falldorf or Shelby Spuller.

The Minot State volleyball team consistently found the hot hand and scattered the ball across the court Tuesday evening in a 3-0 win (25-21, 25-14, 25-23) against the University of Mary at the Minot State Dome.

With the rivalry victory, the Beavers (10-11, 4-8 NSIC) reached double-digit wins for the first time since the 2014 season. They also kept the Marauders (3-17, 0-12 NSIC) winless in conference play this season and swept the two-match season series.

“I feel like we took to the court expecting to win and not being surprising that we were in the game,” MSU head coach Dana Cordova said. “We had beaten them at their place, and this is a good team — they are scrappy, are going to keep fighting and keep a great attitude. So, we knew they wanted it. And we knew they had this match circled after we beat them on their court. We had to come in and play each point. Each point mattered.”

MSU jumped out to a 9-4 lead in the opening set after six consecutive points were scored with a strong net presence.

U-Mary recovered to even the score a few times, first at 13-13 and for the final time at 16-16.

Brenner took over in crunch time with four kills in MSU’s final five points, leading to a 25-21 set win — the same first set score the two teams ended up with in their first meeting back on Sept. 11.

“Once we get our momentum going, we keep it very easily,” Brenner said. “But, we have a bad habit of falling off sometimes and losing our momentum. So, when we get those type of plays and do good things, it’s good for us to build off of that. Take that energy and roll with it.”

The Beavers built up another early cushion in the second set, 10-2. This time, however, they didn’t allow the Marauders to rally back into the set.

The closest U-Mary got was five points, as the Beavers kept their distance by hitting at a .370 clip. MSU’s hitting percentage for the match came in at .257, the third-best percentage in a match this season for the Beavers.

Even more promising, three players — Spuller, Falldorf and Brenner — each led the team with three kills in the second set. The ball wasn’t just finding one person.

“That’s what we need moving forward,” Cordova said about MSU’s balanced attack. “As long as we can keep moving the ball around and not become very predictable, that makes us a lot stronger as a team.”

Outside hitters Spuller and Brenner both finished with 13 kills and a .300 attack percentage. Falldorf wasn’t far behind with nine kills and two blocks.

MSU setter Kelsey Dewulf racked up 39 assists to go with seven digs and a kill.

“This is the intensity we have to have against every team,” Falldorf said. “We were on the whole time. Every part was clicking. From our serve-receive to our hitting, we were all playing as one. It felt like we were on offense the whole time, instead of defense.”

The third set tested the Beavers the most. Trailing 14-8, MSU stormed back to tie the score at 19-19. Points were then traded all the way up to 23-23.

Brenner and Spuller rose to the occasion with the final two kills, 25-23.

“Third game, we had to bounce back,” Cordova said. “We weren’t playing very good and we had some situations, I like to call them brain farts, and some miscommunication. But, once we cleaned up and everyone went back to doing their job and not trying to do more, we picked it up and came out with the W.”

MSU libero Karli Koza picked up 21 digs. Hayley Swain had six kills, two blocks and a lethal .357 attack percentage.

U-Mary was led by a Natalia Cruz double-double with 11 kills and 12 digs.

A three-match homestand for MSU rolls on with NSIC contests against No. 11-ranked Southwest Minnesota State on Friday (6 p.m.) and Sioux Falls on Saturday (2 p.m.) at the MSU Dome.

Alex Eisen covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.