Does the reward make the risk tolerable?
It certainly did Tuesday night for the University of Mary volleyball team. The Marauders pounded out 12 aces on the way to a 25-13, 25-17-25-16 volleyball victory over visiting Minot State.
With the victory, U-Mary won its third in a row for the first time this season and improved to 4-12 in the Northern Sun Conference. Minot dipped to 1-15 and 5-20.
The risk half of the equation was nine service errors, making the Marauders' aggressive service approach a winning proposition.
Senior Freddie Campbell led the Marauders with six aces, three of which came early in the second set, giving the hosts a 4-0 lead.
Katelyn Olson, who swatted an ace in the second game, said the 12 aces were merely a welcome side benefit of U-Mary's bold service.
"We serve to get the other team out of system, so we have a better chance to play defense," said Olson, a 6-foot senior. "... We made more service errors than we want to, but we did have a lot of aces."
The Marauders had a strong defensive night, limiting the Beavers to a .167 hitting percentage and blocking three shots.
There wasn't much bad news anywhere on the U-Mary statistics sheet. The Marauders had a .429 hitting percentage, which included a nifty .571 in the opening set.
Leading the attack were 6-foot senior Lauren Randall with 13 kills, 5-9 freshman Natalie Cruz with eight and Olson with seven. Amanda Lopes, a 5-11 junior setter, had four kills to go with her 34 assists. Genovana Almeida, a 5-7 junior, led the way on the back row with 12 digs.
Minot started well in the first and third games before the Marauders took over down the stretch.
The Beavers opened the night by playing the Marauders even at 9-9 in the first game. At that point U-Mary took off on a 16-4 run that closed out the set. Randall thumped five kills in that winning surge.
Campbell worked her service magic at the start of the second game as the Marauders shot away to a 14-5 lead. Minot gamely battled back to make it 20-17 before the Marauders rattled off the final five points of the game.
Minot played on even terms with U-Mary through the first half of the third game. Holding a 12-10 lead, the Marauders launched a game-deciding 9-2 tear that included four straight kills by Cruz.
Olson said she enjoys playing Minot, which she considers a healthy rival.
"We enjoy it. They're the only other NSIC team in the state, so we have that rivalry," she observed. "... They fought hard tonight. It's always fun to play them."
The Marauders won the first encounter with the Beavers 3-1 in September at Minot.
Dana Cordova, the Minot State coach, said the rivalry is a positive thing, and not just because of the limited travel involved.
"It's always nice to have a rival, and it's nice to have a rival you respect, as well," Cordova said. "It's a good rivalry, not any ill will toward each other. It's a good rivalry to have."
Cordova said serve receive woes that dogged the Beavers on Tuesday haven't been a nagging problem for her team.
"We just struggled in all areas tonight. We couldn't get anything going," she said. "Our serve receive is usually pretty consistent."
"Give U-Mary credit. They played a clean match and we got into our own heads," she added. "We're rebuilding and this is a team that makes a mistake and can't let it go. We made a lot of mistakes tonight. We made it easy for them."
Olson was a hitter Tuesday, one of multiple roles she fills for the Marauders.
"I play setter, right side and middle. I probably feel most at home at setter. Middle is probably my least comfortable position," she said. "Any time I go out there I try to contribute the best I can."
She said her seven-kill, five-assist, 1-ace performance against Minot was one of her better offensive matches.
With four regular-season matches ahead, Olson said it would be nice to keep the current momentum going. But there are no guarantees.
"Tonight we were running really well together. ... These three (winning) matches have built some confidence going into the end of the season. But three of the four (upcoming opponents) are nationally ranked. ... We want to put forth a full effort and really compete," she said.