Their first match, and conference match, to boot.
Yes, there were first-match jitters on both sides of the net in Tuesday's season-opening volleyball match between Bismarck and Mandan.
Mandan got past the butterflies early on, but Bismarck, battling both jitters and inexperience did not.
That played a part in Mandan's decisive 25-18, 25-17, 25-18 victory on its own court.
Some Grade A defense didn't hurt either. Once the Braves identified Bismarck's top hitters, it was tough sledding for the Demon front row. Seldom did BHS unload a salvo that wasn't blocked or tipped. Mandan rejected nine shots to Bismarck's two.
Mandan coach Anna Folk said the Braves' strong defensive play came as no surprise.
"Our defense, I think, was strong. Our back row was super-strong," she said. "Midway through the first game we kind of got their hitters under control."
"We knew we had a pretty good back row. It's the same crew we've had the last couple of years," Folk added. "Our blockers are pretty good jumpers and they're getting better at reading the hitters."
The first set was the most closely contested. Their were eight ties, the last at 18. At that point, the Braves ran off the last eight points of the set. Taylor Leingang, a 5-11 senior, supplied a block and kill to the closing run. Leingang and LaReena Mosbrucker combined on two blocks and the Demons committed four hitting and court errors.
Mandan build a five-point lead in the middle of the second game and took control with a 6-2 surge that made it 21-13. A wide serve by Bismarck closed out the second set.
The third set had a similar complexion, Mandan leading by five or six points much of the way and closing with a 6-2 rush. Leingang clinched the match with a spectacular diving dig that she flipped over the net for the decisive point.
Leingang spurred the Mandan effort with a dozen kills and 14 digs. Mosbrucker led the way with 2.5 blocks. Gustavsson had 24 assists and Piper Harris finished with 22 digs. Leingang and Gustavsson are seniors. Harris and Mosbrucker are juniors.
McKenzie Moser, Caitlyn Allery and Emily Stonecipher all logged six kills for BHS. Moser added 21 digs.
Bismarck coach Brianna Kline said the Demons, who have only four seniors, displayed some growing pains.
"We graduated six seniors. ... I think we were nervous going in and never really got out of that," she observed.
Kline said the Demons had trouble adjusting to Mandan's defense.
"They are a good defensive team. We started tipping too much," she noted.
Mandan, ranked fourth in the West Region and fifth in the statewide volleyball poll, returns to action Thursday at Legacy. Bismarck, ranked third in the preseason coaches poll, meets Jamestown next. That match is scheduled for next Tuesday at the BHS Karlgaard gym.
Jamestown was ranked fourth in the statewide preseason poll and Legacy sat fifth in the preseason regional poll.
Get in the game with our Prep Sports Newsletter
Sent weekly directly to your inbox!