It was only the first set. Yet a block by Bismarck State College's Caitlyn Inman and Kristina Lucier may well have been the biggest play of Wednesday's 3-0 volleyball sweep of NDSCS-Wahpeton.
That block gave BSC the hard-fought first game 25-23, and the Mystics were in attack mode the rest of the night against the visiting Willdcats.
"We needed that one," said Inman, a 6-foot-1 freshman hitter. "That gave us the energy to keep pushing through the whole match."
And push they did, taking the next two games 25-19 and 25-15 to deal Wahpeton its first Mon-Dak Conference loss of the season.
BSC's Wednesday victory leaves three Mon-Dak Conference teams with one loss. The Mystics stand 5-1 with four league matches remaining. Wahpeton slipped to 4-1 and is tied with Williston State College. BSC plays at Williston on Sunday.
Wahpeton battled to the bitter end in the first game, a set that featured a dozen ties, the last at 23. BSC drew even on a kill by Inman and won the game when Inman and Lucier rejected a hit by the Wildcats' Brook Bauman.
The Mystics appeared to have the game under control until a 9-2 surge put Wahpeton up 21-19. Then BSC righted the ship, scoring six of the final eight points.
Neither team led by more than two points through the first half of the second game, but the Mystics took control with a 10-2 run that made it 22-14. Six different BSC players contributed to that decisive run, including two kills apiece by Inman and Liza Doppler.
BSC got away fast in the third game, taking a 20-13 lead on a 10-2 run capped off by a Doppler kill.
Mystics coach Jeni Walsh said Wednesday's effort was undoubtedly her team's most balanced team performance of the season.
"I thought we all came together tonight. As a team we played well. I've seen glimpses of it in practice, but to see it all come together on our home floor makes a coach sleep well at night," Walsh said.
Inman said the Mystics were well aware they couldn't afford a second Mon-Dak loss on Wednesday if they were to entertain hopes of winning the conference title.
"It was a very big win. We came out with a lot of energy. We knew we could do it. ... We were all a little bit nervous going into it, but when we came out with the energy we did we knew we could get it done," Inman observed.
With 6-foot-2 Kate Knowles and two six-foot teammates, Wahpeton presented an impressive front line. Still, BSC was able to contest almost every shot. And on offense, the Mystics consistently found lanes to exploit.
"Our back row players are really helpful. They call shots for us and that makes our job a lot easier. It's really a team effort," said Inman, who finished with six kills and four blocks.
Defensively, Inman said the ability to contest every Wahpeton hit was helpful to the BSC back row players.
"Something our coaches really emphasize is defense. ... As long as we can get a little touch on the ball our back row can pick it up," Inman said.
Walsh said BSC's 12 blocks was a telling statistic.
"Our blocking came together tonight, so we started to gain confidence in our blockers. Then our whole game came around," she noted.
Given help from the front line, Walsh said BSC's back row play was outstanding.
"Sidney Mann played outstanding defense, and Sam (Anklam), our libero, is lights-out, day-in and day-out.
Doppler, a 5-8 freshman, led the BSC attack with 11 kills. After that, the Mystics relied on balance. Six players tallied from four to six kills. Lucier and Inman had four blocks apiece and Anklam led the way with 11 digs.
Wahpeton got 11 kills from Victoria Czech and 10 from Jasmine Bruer. Becca Weir had 3.5 of the seven Wildcat blocks.
Wahpeton will have to wait three weeks for a rematch. The teams meet Oct. 14 on the Wildcats' floor, the final conference match of the season for both teams.