McKenna Hartiger

Chadron State freshman McKenna Hartiger of Hotchkiss, Colo., goes high for a kill during the Eagles wins over their South Dakota rivals last weekend.

Photo by Con Marshall

The Chadron State College volleyball team lost its opening sets, but added some pizzazz the rest of the way both nights while defeating Black Hills State and South Dakota Mines in the Chicoine Center last weekend.

The Eagles were woeful in the opening set Friday night, losing to Black Hills by a 25-12 margin. CSC had just six kills and eight hitting errors and also had plenty of defensive lapses, particularly in the back court.

But after coach Riann Mullis took her team off the court into a hallway at the end of the set, apparently for a pep talk, it was a whole different story. In the second set, the Eagles jumped out to leads of 11-3 and 15-5, saw the Yellow Jackets, who are regarded as “a pretty good team,” make things close, but won 25-22.

Black Hills took the early lead in the third set. But the Eagles caught up at 9-9, went ahead 14-13, traded points with the Jackets for the next 10 minutes, and prevailed 25-21 by tallying four of the final six points.

The finale was no contest. Chadron State won 25-11. CSC had 19 kills and just one hitting miscue in it. Chalk it up as one of the Eagles’ top performances of the 21st Century.

All told, the Eagles had 58 kills and 25 hitting errors for a .270 hitting percentage. Black Hills had 42 kills and 19 hitting miscues and a .198 figure. Senior Gabby Varela led CSC with 18 kills to go with eight errors. Sophomore Timmi Keisel was 12 and 1 at the net for a spectacular .579 log and transfer Nae Springs, who did not play in the first set, added a dozen kills and just three hitting infractions.

On Saturday night, the Eagles didn’t start quite as off key as they had against Black Hills, but South Dakota Mines won the opener 25-20. The Eagles swept the next three 25-18, 25-14 and 25-23.

Varela was the CSC pacesetter up front with 20 kills while Springs, who displayed lots of energy, had 18. Both were charged with eight hitting errors. Keisel had just three kills Saturday night, when most of the sets went to the outside, but promising freshman McKenna Hartrigan took up much of the slack with nine “spikes,” to use an ancient term.

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CSC stalwart Madison Webb had 49 set assists in each of the matches and libero Emily Bruce brought up 38 digs during the two matches. Mullis also praised the backrow play of sophomore Ashton Burditt, who is a Spearfish native but was not recruited by the Yellow Jackets.

The Eagles are now 6-10 for the season and 3-5 in the RMAC. This weekend they’ll visit Fort Lewis in Durango and Adams State in Alamosa during a southern Colorado swing. Both teams also have 3-5 conference marks.

A year ago, when those teams visited CSC, the Eagles swept Fort Lewis, but Adams State won three straight the next night. The Grizzlies feature one of the conference’s top middles, Mallory Grimstrud of Helena, Mont., a 6-foot-2 senior with extra long arms. She put down a dozen emphatic kills and also had five blocks versus the Eagles last year.

The Eagles will host Wayne State on Tuesday, Oct. 17. The Wildkittens are 12-6 midway through the season.

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