Going into Tuesday night's match, the Black Hills State volleyball team sat at 3-5 in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference in a four-way tie for seventh. The game was important for the Yellow Jackets standing in the conference.
It also happened to be against their rival from just down the road, South Dakota School of Mines.
BHSU cruised to a rivalry night win, taking down the Hardrockers in three sets 25-22, 25-18 and 25-21.
"I think always in this gym it’s about emotional control," BHSU coach Kristin Carmichael said. "It’s a big rivalry match, everyone gets geared up for it. The team that can stay level is the team that usually wins."
BHSU was able to stay level, and was aided by a strong presence at the net that Mines had no answer for.
"Defensively we didn’t do a very good job of stopping what they were doing," Mines coach Jenni Bolduc said. "Our block wasn’t tracking their hitters very well and they got a lot of shots that we didn’t even touch which makes it hard for our defenders to pick up those balls when there’s no block."
Mines came out strong, winning the first few points of the match, but BHSU was able to inch ahead as an 11-9 lead turned into a 19-15 advantage and eventually a set win.
The second set was much of the same. Mines grabbed the first few points, but the Yellow Jackets were in control before long. After a Mines mini-run to cut the lead to 19-16 for BHSU, Carmichael called a timeout, and out of the break BHSU won the set with a 6-2 run.
"Unfortunately we like the back against the wall thing," Carmicahel said of her team's struggles early in sets. "But honestly, in other matches it’s been a little bit more than three points so I was happy we were keeping it close and knew we could come around. It was overall a really good match."
Rotations have been a concern for Mines this season, and Bolduc said the team needs to get to the point where it feels strong in all of its rotations.
"The unfortunate thing in volleyball is that you have to rotate, so you start in what you think is going to be your strongest rotation but then you’re going to have ups and downs if your other rotations aren’t as strong," she said. "The key for us is making sure that we’re strong in all our rotations."
The third set did not have as much drama, as the Yellow Jackets jumped out to a 7-1 lead which quickly became 13-8.
After a Mines timeout, it went on a 9-7 run to cut the lead to 20-17, but BHSU was able to close the match out to move to 7-11 overall and 4-5 in the RMAC.
"Towards the end of the third set we just had a lot of unforced errors," Bolduc said. "You can’t win when you’re not putting the ball in the court."
Ellise Lech led the Yellow Jackets with 10 kills while Sierra Stugelmeyer had seven. Mikkella Reese from Mines led all hitters with 15 kills while Emily Newton had 12.
Reese also had 17 digs while Alye Wagner had 14 for Mines. Tara Hall had 13 for BHSU and Sydney Ederhoff had 12.
Allie Boggs had 30 assists for Mines and Lech had 27 for the Yellow Jackets.
Carmichael said keeping the emotion of the rivalry in check is always a big part of the battle when Mines and BHSU get together.
"I think everyone knows these matches are coming up, but honestly it’s just another RMAC match for us. We have to terminate in the conference, we have to get wins in the conference," she said. "Honestly, it’s usually easier to bring girls down than to push them up. If the energy is already there, I think it’s a matter of containing it instead of having to create it."
Mines falls to 2-17 on the season and is 0-10 in the conference in a season that Bolduc admits has been frustrating. She thinks, however, that the team understands it is building a foundation for the future.
"If you’re looking at the wins and losses column, it’s tough, it’s really tough, it’s definitely a grind to be in that situation," she said. "But they show up every day to practice wanting to work, wanting to get extra reps and wanting to get better. That for sure makes it better and much more like ‘we’re investing, we’re rebuilding and we’re trying to make the future better for the program,' and I feel like they’re investing in that idea so the season has been good and bad."
Mines takes on Westminster College (5-11) on the road Friday while BHSU will take on Westminster Saturday.