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110919-spt-bsc-northplatte

Bismarck State College's Megan Anderson, left, watches as her kill finds a void in the North Platte defense in the first game of Friday night's match for the Northwest Plains District championship at the Armory.

 Game one of Friday's volleyball playoff match between Bismarck State College and North Platte, Neb., Community College was a turkey shoot for the host Mystics.

 BSC overwhelmed the Knights 25-14, and the Mystics had a good time.

 The rest of the night turned out quite differently as North Platte took the first game of the best-of-three Northwest Plains District playoff 3-2.

 Game scores were 14-25, 25-23, 26-24, 18-25, 15-8.

 Bismarck State coach Jeni Walsh said she was well aware the first-set romp wasn't reality.

 "It's never that easy when you get to this level of the tournament," she said of the district tournament, which is a national-qualifying event. "I figured it would take (North Platte) a while to settle in to the atmosphere. I knew (25-14) wasn't going to be the rest of the evening."

 North Platte righted the ship and eked out two-point wins in the next two sets to put BSC in a corner. The Mystics bounced back to take the fourth game 25-18, pushing the match to the limit.

 The fifth game was tied only once, on a kill by the Knights' Alysen Daniels, which made it 2-2. North Platte responded with a four-point run to make it 5-2, and led the rest of the game.

 Three times BSC closed the deficit to a point at 5-4, 6-5 and 7-6, but that was the end of the line. North Platte embarked on a 7-1 run for a 14-7 lead. A couple of minutes later, Sydney Mullin closed the game and match with a powerful blast that made it 15-8.

 BSC hitters Cara Haussler, Becca Nitsch and Megan Anderson combined for 13 kills in the first-game runaway, but the Knights slowed them down considerably the rest of the way. Haussler finished the night with 18 kills, Nitsch had 15 and Anderson had six.

 "We really worked on talking on our blocks so we were closing together and jumping together," said North Platte sophomore hitter Gabby Menghini. "And on offense we tried to push them deeper into the corners to make it harder for them."

 Walsh said the Knights' service approach had an effect, too.

 "They started serving more aggressively, and that took us out of our offense a little bit," she said.

 North Platte was, indeed, aggressive at the service line, pounding 12 aces and logging 10 service errors.

 Menghini, a 5-foot-9 dynamo, was no secret coming into the match. She was far and away the Knights's kills leader, and she lived up to her billing with 21 kills on Friday.

 Walsh said it was hard to build a defense to stop Menghini with Mullin, a 5-10 sophomore, lurking in the middle.

 "(Menghini) hits a hard ball ... and we had to look out for their middle coming in, so we had to split our blocks," Walsh noted. "(Mullin) in the middle was a nice weapon for them."

  Mullin totaled 12 kills on the night. She also contributed two of North Platte's eight blocks and four of its 12 aces.

 Menghini said she's used to dealing with defenses designed to slow her down.

 "Teams set their blockers to close me out. ... We work in practice on using different shots into the deep corners and into the donut. And our back row does a good job of telling us where to hit," she observed. 

 North Platte's Friday victory ended BSC's 11-match winning string. The Knights have won four straight to improve to 15-19. BSC dipped to 27-8.

 The series resumes today at 11 a.m. at the BSC Armory. Should the Mystics win and force a third match, it will be played shortly after the 11 a.m. match.

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