There have been two constants so far for the Bismarck State College volleyball team.
Winning and driving.
This week, the 14-4 Mystics get some home-cooking and they are thankful for it.
"We've had a lot of windshield time," said BSC head coach Jeni Walsh. "But it's great the school lets us go to these tournaments. It's been very rewarding to see teams from different parts of the Upper Midwest. It's kind of a double-edged sword though because a lot of these teams have been very good."
The Mystics certainly have held their own. Enjoying a weekend not on the bus, BSC previously traveled to tournaments in Fergus Falls and Rochester, Minn., and another in Wahpeton. Of their four losses, three came against ranked teams.
"We've made a lot of really nice strides so far," Walsh said. "We thought we'd have a pretty strong team, but there also were a lot of unknowns being that we have 10 freshmen on the roster.
"A lot of it was how fast they'd be able to get acclimated to the speed of college volleyball. There's always some growing pains, but overall I've been really happy."
The Mystics have a big week ahead in the Mon-Dak. At 2-1 in conference play, BSC hosts Dakota College-Bottineau (1-2) tonight before a biggie on Wednesday when league-leading North Dakota State College of Science (3-0, 14-2) comes to town.
"Definitely the Wahpeton match is one that is always circled on the calendar, but we're not overlooking Bottineau by any means," Walsh said. "They have a much-improved team."
So far, the Mystics have hung their hats on their stout defense. Freshman Sam Anklam has settled nicely into the lineup with a team-best 320 digs. Versatile freshman Liza Doppler has turned up 152 digs. Sophomore setter Alyssa Beck has 139.
At the net, BSC has out-blocked its opponents 111-62 with freshmen Hannah Hanson (41) and Kristina Lucier (33) leading the way. Jaycee Walter (30) also provides plenty of resistance up front.
"Our defense has kept us in a lot of games so far," Walsh said.
The attack is coming along nicely, too.
With Beck (292 assists) and Jessie Oja (288) triggering the offense, the Mystics have five players with 73 or more kills. Four have surpassed the century mark. Caitlyn Inman, another freshman, has clubbed 149 kills. Doppler (133), Sierra Graff (115) and Walter (113) also are doing plenty of damage.
"We've come a long way (offensively). Hopefully that continues as the kids continue to get more comfortable with the speed of the game," Walsh said.
As is typically the case, the Mystics are excelling with many familiar faces. Nine of the 15 players on the roster are from Bismarck or Mandan. It's not by accident.
"Our first priority is local kids, to give them the opportunity to extend their playing careers," Walsh said. "Whether that leads to them continuing playing after they're done here, or getting a great degree, we're here to provide them that opportunity.
"We have a really good group of kids. It's fun to see them playing together and doing well and hopefully we can continue in that direction."