Sports

A tale of two matches, Bethel volleyball struggles early and rallies late to open season 1-1

Costly mistakes dig a hole too steep

By: Jared Martinson

The Bethel volleyball team kicked off their 2018 campaign just down the street at the University of Northwestern-St. Paul in the Kathryne Pals Invitational on Friday night.

Bethel faced off in the first of two evening matches against Wartburg College, taking the first set 25-22 thanks to hot starts from senior outside hitters Brooke Olstad and Tina Hoppe. Freshman setter Hannah Wilhite also impressed in her collegiate debut, misdirecting multiple sets for points.

Wartburg recalibrated after a slow start in the second frame, falling behind 4-0 but recovering for a 12-7 lead that would not be caught. The Knights won the second set 25-17.

As the Royals continued to make attack errors, momentum stayed with Wartburg and senior outside hitter Lizzy Blough (19 kills in the match) as they ran away in the best-of-five match, winning 3-1 with final set wins of 25-18 and 25-12.

Tina Hoppe led the Royals with eight kills. Junior Dominique Dabu was phenomenal on the defensive with 16 digs, while sophomore Rylee Forshee and freshman Hannah Wilhite were both close behind at 14 apiece.

Focus increases in rivalry match victory

In match two of the evening, Bethel faced off against and defeated local non-conference rival and host University of Northwestern-St. Paul. The Eagles are ranked no. 15 in the country at the Division III level.

From start to finish the match played out in dramatic fashion. The always-elusive “win by two” rule extended the contest to a 30-28 final score in favor of Northwestern in the first set.

Yet the Royals would not fold. Middle blocker Maria Claflin and right-side Macie Gavic were crucial in the next two set wins for Bethel. The pair of sophomores finished the match with 10 kills each. Bethel gained the match lead 2-1 with 25-23 and 25-21 victories.

The Eagles responded thanks to veteran outside hitters Freya Hanson and Mariah Halvorson, winning set number four 25-18 and evening up the tally at 2-2. Their energy carried over to the final frame and Northwestern jumped to a commanding 10-5 lead.

Bethel again would not go down easy. They clawed back into a tie score at 14 which guaranteed another extended set determined by the “win by two” rule, and two Eagle attack errors sealed a huge comeback victory for the Royals, 20-18.

Bethel starts the season 1-1 and is slated for two more games in the Northwestern tournament on Saturday. Junior defensive specialist Dominique Dabu believes this is just the beginning for the team on the court because of how tight the group is off it.

“There’s this joy in us,” she said. “There’s this fight and this grit in us and I definitely wouldn’t want to be spending the season with anyone else.”

The joy is visible. The whole gym is reminded when every member of the bench can be seen exploding in cheers on a kill, and even in a tough situation the interactions between players are of encouraging nature.

Early-season jitters were visible, too. That’s something to be quickly addressed by the Royals. “We need to work on being more disciplined,” Dabu explained. “We want to make the playoffs and win the tournament, but that’s a long ways away, so we just take it day by day.”

Catch Bethel volleyball in action again at Northwestern on Saturday at 10 a.m. against St. Norbert’s and at 2 p.m. against Buena Vista. The volleyball home opener will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 4 against the University of Minnesota-Morris at 7 p.m.

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