BEMIDJI -- Friday night’s four-set loss to Minnesota State was a bitter pill to swallow for the Bemidji State volleyball team in its home opener.
The Beavers won a nearly flawless first set 25-12 and just about took a two-set lead, only to drop a nail-biter 25-23. BSU fell behind early and couldn’t sustain its level of play through the third and fourth sets as the Mavericks took wins of 25-18 and 25-23 to claim victory at the BSU Gymnasium.
“We have these matches a lot where we can play with teams and execute and just don’t finish it,” BSU head coach Kevin Ulmer said. “That’s what it was. It was pressure at the end of set two, and if you win set two, that’s a really different game that just happened.”
The Beavers outplayed the Mavericks in multiple statistical categories: kills (52-51), hitting percentage (.296-.291), serving percentage (.921-.897) and digs (46-40). But it wasn’t enough in the end.
“We did a lot of really good things there and just came up short,” Ulmer said. “That is the hurdle right now for us is we have to be confident to finish it and have somebody step up and not let that happen at the end of the game.”
The first set of Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference play began with a drought coming to an end for BSU (2-6, 0-1 NSIC). Bemidji State won a set for the first time in its last four meetings with Minnesota State (8-1, 1-0 NSIC) dating back to 2015. The Beavers recorded a season-high .714 hitting percentage with 14 kills in 18 attacks and no errors to take a 1-0 lead.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever seen us hit .700 before,” Ulmer said. “We had a perfect set offensively.”
Both teams battled back and forth throughout a second set that featured 14 ties and seven lead changes. At 23-22, BSU sat only two points from clinching the set. However, a kill and two service aces saw the Mavericks pull out a 25-23 win to tie the match at 1-all.
The loss appeared to take the wind out of Bemidji State’s sails. The Mavericks took a 2-1 lead in the match after comfortably winning 25-18 in set three.
The Beavers did not go quietly. Trailing by as many as five in set four, BSU hung tight and narrowed the deficit to 24-23 on a Becky Schroeder kill. A blocking error one point later ultimately brought the night to an end.
“It’s right there in your hands, and it just kind of slipped away in terms of making some errors at the end of the game,” Ulmer said. “You can’t miss serves at the end of the game and you can’t get aced at the end of the game. … They have to start believing in putting the effort and the work in early on in the set to not let it get away from them. Because they can finish. But when it’s tight, it’s hard.”
Schroeder posted 19 kills and a career-high .406 hitting percentage to lead the Beavers in the loss. Haley Stolt contributed 12 kills and 10 digs on defense to pick up the double-double. Julie Touchett added 10 kills while Maddie Mackinac notched a match-high 42 set assists.
Emma Hallmann led the team defensively with 10 digs, and Touchett came up with three blocks.
The Beavers will be back at home today to host No. 6 Concordia-St. Paul in a 1 p.m. match at the BSU Gymnasium.