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Eric Peterson, Published September 24 2013

Dragons knock off Northern State in NSIC volleyball

MOORHEAD – Minnesota State Moorhead lost a marathon opening set against Northern State on Tuesday at Alex Nemzek Fieldhouse.

The Dragons didn’t let that get them down.

MSUM rallied to win the final three sets in a 29-31, 25-12, 25-21, 25-19 victory against the Wolves in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference volleyball.

“I think we really stayed together as a team,” said Dragons sophomore Kaitlin VanWinkle, who led her team with 13 kills. “We really worked hard. Even when we are down, we stayed together.”

The Dragons (9-2, 2-1 NSIC) handed Northern State its first loss this season. The Wolves (9-1, 2-1) had won their first nine matches.

“They’re a good team,” MSUM head coach Tammy Blake said of Northern State. “I think that totally was a confidence booster for us. It’s good momentum going into the weekend.”

The Dragons play road games at the University of Sioux Falls and Southwest Minnesota State this weekend. Southwest Minnesota State is ranked No. 9 in this week’s Division II coaches poll. The NSIC has four teams ranked in the top nine in the country.

“I think this was a big win just for our team’s morale,” VanWinkle said. “It gives us some positive spirits heading into the weekend.”

After a back-and-forth opening set that featured 17 ties and nine lead changes, the Dragons caught fire in the second set. MSUM scored 13 of 14 points during one stretch. Dragons libero Katie Meyers capped the surge with a kill that gave her team a 23-9 lead in the second set. The Dragons also had three blocks during that momentum-changing rally.

“We adjusted our blocking,” Blake said. “We did a much better job defending.”

The Dragons also used a big run to assert control in the third set, scoring 9 of 10 points in one stretch. They rode that rally to a 25-21 set victory.

In the fourth and final set, the score was knotted at 17-17 before the Dragons scored six points in a row. Meyers capped that surge with an ace that gave her team a 23-17 lead, which led to a 25-19 victory. Freshman outside hitter Brianna Atkins closed out the match with a kill on the right side.

“We don’t break down,” VanWinkle said. “We know how to play in tough situations like this.”

Atkins finished with 11 kills and a .400 hitting percentage. The Dragons limited Northern State to a .105 team hitting percentage. MSUM had 75 digs to go along with its 32 block assists and 18 team blocks.

Wolves sophomore outside hitter Kelsey Chambers had a match-high 21 kills.

“We executed our game plan,” Blake said. “We also knew when (Chambers) got to the back row, that’s when we had to go on our runs because she’s really good. I thought we did a good job with that kind of stuff.”

NSU (kills-blocks-aces): Chambers 21-0-0, Tuscherer 7-2-0, McGarvie 10-3-1, Biach 4-1-0, Smith 2-2-0 (43 assists), Finzio8-0-0, Nygaard 0-0-1 (23 digs), Hoffman 0-0-0, Kemink 0-0-0.

MSUM: VanWinkle 13-7-0, Baer 0-0-0 (29 assists), Gradishar 8-3-0, Wolpern 6-5-0, Gruber 7-10-0, Atkins 11-7-0, Meyers 1-0-4 (17 digs), Palmquist 6-2-0, Sullivan 0-0-1 (19 assists), Feils 1-0-0.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com