Bismarck State College's Bailee Otterness (12) hits over and Miles Community College's Olivia Easton (16) during Region XIII tournament play at the Armory.

 How important was home court advantage between the top two volleyball teams from the Mon-Dak Conference?

 In a word, very.

 On Sunday, Bismarck State College defeated North Dakota State College of Science 3-0 in the championship match of the NJCAA Region XIII tournament at the BSC Armory. With the win, the Mystics (27-7) earned a berth in next weekend’s Northwest Plains District Championship, also at the Armory.

  “We love playing in front of our home crowd,” freshman outside hitter Becca Nitsch said. “It’s the whole energy. Our friends and families can be here and it’s just a good environment to be in.”

The Mystics, who were 0-3 in Wahpeton this season, improved to 6-0 against the Wildcats at home.

 “It’s great to have home court,” said BSC coach Jeni Walsh, who was named regional coach of the year. “It was two good teams battling it out. It was nice for our kids to know they could come from behind to get it done.”

 The Mystics dominated the first set from the start. They took the early lead and coasted to a 25-16 win. They fell behind 8-3 in the second set before winning 25-21 and trailed 7-2 in the third set on the way to a 25-20 win.

 “They’re playing really well right now,” NDSCS coach Jane Passa said. “You know how in the process of a season it can be a roller-coaster, at the beginning of year we were good and we’re going down the roller-coaster and they’ve been climbing now.”

 “They’re blocking was really well,” Passa added. “They played good defense and it’s hard to find holes in the court against them. You just can’t make mistakes and we couldn’t capitalize when we had the lead.”

 Masy Kuntz, a 5-foot-6 freshman, had two of the Mystics seven blocks.

 Nitsch and sophomore outside hitter Cara Haussler had a half block each. But they’re biggest contributions were on offense where they kept plays alive. Nitsch had 12 kills and 11 digs and served two aces. Haussler, a 5-8 sophomore, added 11 kills and 11 digs.

“That’s a typical Becca game,” Walsh said. “She’s just real steady on that back row and has a lot of firepower in the front row. She’s a small person (5-7) but she’s got a lot of firepower.”

 The Mystics led 7-6 in the first set with a pair of Nitsch kills sparked 9-2 run that put BSC in control. NDSCS got no closer than eight points the rest of the way.

 “Our blockers did a really good job closing off their hitters and getting good touches,” Nitsch said.

 The next two sets weren't that easy.

 The Wildcats jumped out to an 8-3 lead, after which Walsh used a timeout to slow the momentum. With it 9-4, the Mystics ran off seven straight points. The set was tied for the last time at 15-15 on a kill by Wahpeton's Lily Pyle. The Wildcats got within 20-19 on back-to-back aces by Miah Gessell. It was still 22-21 when Megan Anderson scored on a kill. A Wahpeton hit went long, and Nitsch served an ace to end it.

 Coming from behind was big and would be needed again in the next set.

 “It shows that we’re a versatile team that can play in all different kinds of situations. We just come together and make it work,” Nitsch said.

 A series of mistakes by BSC helped the Wildcats take another 8-3 lead. It took a while before BSC evened it at 16-16. The Mystics led 21-20 before scoring the last four points of the match. Emma Marion and Kuntz each had a block during the run.

 “The key was our play at the net,” Walsh said. “We blocked well and that’s been a nemesis for us, off and on. All season it’s come and gone, and it seemed to back this weekend for us.”

 Emma Fricke had 23 assists and Mady Mosolf 14. Alie Glasser led the way with 14 digs.

 Gabby Hahn, a 5-19 sophomore, paced the Wildcats with 10 kills and 16 digs.

 “They’re playing really well,” Passa said. “I think they can make some noise at the national tournament.”

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