The newest Summit League team found out first-hand Monday night exactly what has made North Dakota State an NCAA Tournament regular the last three years.
And in the process, the University of South Dakota discovered what it means to play a top team on their home floor.
North Dakota State, winners of the last three Summit League regular season titles, swept conference newcomer South Dakota 25-13, 27-25, 25-15 in front of a statewide television audience at the DakotaDome.
In a matchup between teams tied for first place, it was the Bison (9-5, 3-0) who again got it done against league competition.
Dont get me wrong, theyre better, USD coach Matt Houk said. I dont question our effort at all tonight, its just that our execution was lull. Im not taking anything away from them, but we did not deserve to win that match.
And we have to own that fact.
Having won two road matches to start league play, the Coyotes (6-7, 2-1) came out sluggish and, despite a stronger second set, never really got in rhythm.
Playing a team like North Dakota State which has earned two NCAA Tournament berths in the last three years in your home opener can have that humbling effect, according to USD sophomore setter Tori Kroll.
We might have thought differently about them. Or that because we won two in a row, we were on a high and would keep winning, said Kroll, who recorded 29 set assists.
But they were a very good team and brought us down to level.
There was a brief stretch in the first set where the teams looked almost even.
Yet, the Bison soon turned an 11-9 lead into a 17-9 cushion. As if all at once, USD serves were going into the net, balls werent getting to the setter cleanly and the offense didnt have a chance to get going.
During a timeout early the first set, Houk asked his team, Are you afraid?
Whatever the case, things werent quite right for the youthful Coyotes.
I dont think we were afraid, but we werent focused and werent completely concentrating on what we needed to do, Kroll said.
Two timeouts by the Coyotes didnt slow the onslaught, as NDSU went on the easy victory with all seven players recording a kill.
Even with all the off-the-court factors marking USDs biggest home match at the Division I level, the Bison played like the polished, seasoned team they are.
It was a new venue for us, and you definitely never know how that goes, first-year NDSU coach Kari Thompson said. They played two great matches on the road and are new into the Summit League, so theres a whole bunch of new stuff.
Im very happy with the way we controlled our tempo, she added. We didnt let all the other factors affect us.
The Coyotes cleaned up their end of the bargain in the second set, as more players got involved in the offensive attack.
An Amber Aschoff kill tied the match at 24-24, forcing extra action, and the Coyotes later tied things at 25-25. With the Dome crowd on its feet, the Bison put together two straight points to take the victory.
As was the case all match, the Bison utilized a quick set to catch the USD defense off guard, something Houk said later his program is trying to implement.
Theyre extremely good in ball control and theyre in system all the time, Houk said. Partly thats them, and partly thats us.
The speed of their offense is very fast, he added. Thats what were trying to do, and it had an effect on us.
The Coyotes came out with renewed energy in the third set, taking an early 7-4 cushion after five kills from Kritenbrink.
NDSU came storming back, tying the game at 10-10, and took control from there. USD got within 14-17 on a Kim Bulaga kill, but the Bison tightened up and pulled in front 21-14.
From there, a pair of aces and a Lauren Cammack kill ended the match.
Naturally there was some frustration on the part of the Coyotes, Kroll said.
At the end, I think we got frustrated with each other and started doing things more on our own, she said. We need to stick together and trust each other that everyone will be where they need to be.
Brynn Joki led the Bison with 10 kills, while Jennifer Lopez had 26 set assists and Andrea Henning posted 15 digs.
USD freshman Kendall Kritenbrink continued her strong start with 13 kills, but committed 10 errors in 42 attempts. Aschoff, a sophomore, added eight kills and fellow sophomore Natalie Walseth chipped in with four kills.
With five days until Saturday nights home contest with Summit League member Missouri-Kansas City, the Coyotes can use what they learned Monday, Houk said.
We learned a lesson tonight, that a good level of effort doesnt always make a difference, he said. We didnt execute little things that we had been in the last five matches.
They definitely taught us a lesson.