The Black Hills State University and South Dakota School of Mines volleyball teams have struggled to put wins on the board this season, and Tuesday night’s match between the two long-time rivals provided an opportunity to perhaps take the sting out of that disappointment.
The Yellow Jackets earned the soothing balm afforded by a victory over a rivalry opponent, knocking off Mines 25-14, 25-18, 25-18 at the King Center.
The Yellow Jackets set the tone early cruising to an easy first-set win keyed by aggressive play at the net featuring a well-balanced attack (six players recorded kills in the set), led by senior Sierra Stugelmeyer (five kills).
“Playing well in the first set hasn’t been our thing, so that was a nice change,” said Yellow Jacket coach Kristin Carmichael. “And the difference, I think, was that we came out with not only a lot of positivity, but also aggression, and those two things haven’t been present in any of our matches until today,”
The second set began in similar fashion with Black Hills rushing out to a quick 6-0 lead and seemingly on the march to another easy set win.
Down 7-4, Mines won the longest point of the night, a back and forth affair that brought the crowd into the match and spurred a Hardrocker surge that eventually evened the match at 9-all.
Back-to-back kills by Yellow Jacket outside hitter Carisa Becerra ended the rally, and though the set continued in a back and forth manner throughout, often featuring a “battle of the 6’s” with Stugelmeyer and Hardrocker freshman Dana Thomson (a game-high 15 kills in the match) exchanging big hit winners, Black Hills eventually prevailed.
“We didn’t make any changes when they came back, just kept our mentality and kept going at it,” said Stugelmeyer, who led the Yellow Jackets in kills with 12. “We did a great job of passing and Laurel (setter Laurel Lech) made a lot of good choices with our hitters coming in. And we made a lot of good blocks and took advantage of our opportunities.”
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After a brief intermission, the Hardrockers came out strong in the third set, grabbing an early lead before Black Hills drew even at nine-apiece and then gradually pulled away to close out the match with the third-set win.
Lech, set up up by excellent digging and passing by the back row (four players contributed double digit numbers to the team total of 60 digs), contributed significantly to the Yellow Jacket victory recording a game-high 35 assists.
“Our back row did a great job passing the ball to me in good spots,” said Lech, who added 13 digs to share top honors with sophomore Valerie Blake. “And we have a lot of good hitters so I had lots of choices and was able to give them a chance to put the ball away.”
In addition to Stugelmeyer’s 12 kills, Becerra added 10 kills while four other players had five or more kills in the match.
The Yellow Jackets improved to 6-10 on the year and 3-6 in Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference play. And perhaps some momentum heading into the final weeks of the schedule.
“A win over Mines is always big by itself, and we have two big games this weekend, and winning here tonight will help us with that,” Carmichael said. “I felt like we passed really well, and I thought our digs were in-system digs rather than just up and a prayer. And our middles played great. They were a weapon always and that was a testament to their transition and hard work.”
For South Dakota Mines (coach Lauren Torvi who was not available for comment), Thomson, the RMAC leader in kills, was the only Hardrocker in double figures with 15. Another freshman, Shyann Bastian, led Mines in assists with 22 and sophomore Tana Dahlberg led the team in digs with 14.
Both teams are home this weekend facing common opponents. The Hardrockers host Colorado Mesa at the King Center on Friday night (6 p.m.), and Western State on Saturday (1 p.m.), while the Yellow Jackets (5-10, 2-6 conference) meet Western State on Friday night (7 p.m.) and Colorado Mesa on Saturday (5:30).