When push came to shove, the Chadron State College volleyball team outfought the South Dakota School of Mines for the final four points in a tough five-set win Friday night at Goodell Gymnasium.
It was a come-from-behind win for the Eagles, who trailed two sets to one, winning the fifth and final set, 19-25, 25-17, 23-25, 25-18 and 15-11.
The final set was tied at 11-all but Chadron State took advantage of a block, Mines hitting error and consecutive kills by Shelby Schouten for the win.
Chadron State coach Jennifer Stadler said they worked this week on minimizing their errors, especially in the fifth set. It paid off.
"You only have 15 points, so you have to minimize your errors. We just wanted to be aggressive in that fifth set, which I thought we did really well," she said.
It was a tough loss for the Hardrockers, who fell to 3-5 in Rocky Mountain Athletic conference play and 7-10 overall.
It came down to not only putting the ball away at crunch time, but putting away the Eagles, Mines coach Lauren Torvi-Prochazka said.
"If we don't do that, we won't win," she said.
Mines sophomore all-conference performer Dana Thomson, who averages 4.08 kills per set and had 20 kills Friday night, had a couple of kills in the final set, but wasn't able to get the equalizer down the stretch.
"She knew the ball was going to her, she always knows the ball is going to her, and she has to put enough on it to put the ball away," Torvi-Prochazka said. "It's tough when everyone knows she has a target on her back, and they know the ball is going to her. But she is good enough to put the ball away, and she knows she has to do that."
Up-and-down play during the match continues to be the Hardrockers struggle, Torvi-Prochazka said.
"We're in, we're out, we're in, we're out," she said. "The only way we are going to get better and win games is if we evolve past that and continue to fight and continue to push. We have to understand that when we are up, we have to push harder. That's just the evolution of us."
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Mines was hot out of the gate, and took control late in the first match, outscoring the Eagles 8-1 down the stretch. Freshman Jacey Koethe had three kills in that run.
The Eagles, however, regained the momentum for a dominating second set before it was the Hardrockers turn in the third. Mines led by as much as 18-9 behind Thompson's hard hits, only to see Chadron State rally to tie the set at 23-23.
A kill by Thomson and a serving ace by Koethe enabled the Hardrockers to hold on and seemingly take the momentum.
Mines led 3-0 in the fourth, but that was its only lead of the set. In the fifth, the 'Rockers led 5-4 and 10-9 before the Eagles came on at the end.
"I thought we played a little bit inconsistent at times. We would play really well one set, and the next set I thought we made a lot of errors," Stadler said. "But I thought our girls did a good job of staying composed and continuing to fight throughout the whole match. Then they came out with a lot of confidence in that fifth set."
Schouten led the Eagles with 17 kills, followed by Rylee Greiman with 14 and Chandler Hageman with 11. Chadron hit .220 on the night, compared to .110 for Mines.
Stadler, the former Sheridan (Wyo.) College coach, is in her first season with the Eagles, who moved to 4-2 and 10-5. Last year Chadron State was 8-19 overall and 6-12 in conference play.
"This conference is so tough, so anytime you can sneak a win on the road, that's a good thing," she said. "The girls have done a good job of continuing to try to get better every day in practice. They are just trying to better themselves and better the team. They continue to work hard, which is all you can ask for."
It's the second five-set loss to the Eagles this year, the first being in the season-opening tournament in Chadron. Torvi-Prochazka said it doesn't feel good to lose like that.
"We can blame it on (youth), but at what point of the season do you continue to make excuses for being young?" she said. "I don't, and they don't. In fact, our youth ends up doing better. We put a lot of faith in them. It's not easy, but our upperclassmen have to lead, and they have to lead themselves first before they lead others."
Mines will host conference-leading Metro State-Denver (7-0, 12-3) today at 3 p.m.
"Metro is a fantastic team. Their physicality is unbelievable," Torvi-Prochazka said. "They run a 6-2, so they run six hitters and all six hitters are within 20 kills of each other on the season. They are very well rounded, they can get it done. We have to play consistent and put the ball on the floor."