The Lady Buccaneer volleyball team was within two points of upsetting last year's Mon-Dak conference champions Monday night, barely conceding the thriller against the North Dakota State College of Science after five hard-fought sets of play.
"It was a battle right down to the end," said John Marble, head volleyball coach at Dawson Community College. "It was a good way to open the conference."
The Bucs trailed in the match after losing the first two sets 13-25 and 20-25 but turned around to pull off wins in the next two sets, 25-23 and 25-22.
After jumping in to the fifth set with a 7-2 lead, the Bucs weren't able to stay in command, allowing a Wildcat run that would tie the game at nine. The DCC women were able to pull out in to the lead one more time, but eventually dropped the set and match 14-16.
"We got outplayed there for a little bit by a quality team," Marble said. "When it came down to the end, they closed a gap on us."
The Bucs had gone five sets during their first matchup with the Wildcats last year and Marble said going in to the deciding game against them Monday was intense.
"Everyone was really pretty excited and confident," he said. "We felt good about what we had done. we came out really focused to serve well and compete aggressively."
Sophomore Terah Lund led the team in kills with seven while freshman middle Kirby Sabec, the tallest Buc at 6-3, totalled four blocks on the match. Defensive specialist Amanda Krone came up with 13 digs while Amanda Shadbolt and libero Ashley Eslinger each had nine.
Monday's loss came after losing four straight matches in the Ridgewater College Tournament, where the Bucs went four sets against Ridgewater, who had been ranked third in the nation in the National Junior College Athletic Association's pre-season poll.
Marble said his team, dominated by freshmen competing for the first time in collegiate play, is showing promising signs of improvement early in the season.
"We're starting to play better and better together as a team," he said. "We really came through and shined against Wahpeton. Our hitters are starting to be more aggressive at the net and we're serving aggressively.
We're able to do a lot of things in terms of dictating what the other team does through our serving."
Defense continues to be a strength for the Lady Bucs; Marble said he is excited about the leadership shown by Shadbolt, the Canadian sophomore at the net, and also the strides shown by freshman Sabec, a Hardin native.
"We're seeing Kirby really grow and develop a lot as a player," he said.
The Bucs' back row, including Eslinger and Krone, also has proven to be a good line of defense, Marble said.
"They are digging a ton of balls," he said. "We're really able to keep a lot of balls alive and run an offense, and that's pretty huge for us."
The Buccaneers open Region IX conference play this Thursday in Sheridan, Wyo., against the Generals, who are 3-4 on the season.
After the regular season play Thursday night, the Bucs will compete in tournament play at Sheridan College on Friday.
Marble said he will be working with his team's hitters and blockers during practice this week and also on improving the Lady Bucs' precision at the serving line.
"We want to work on our ability to serve to a broad range of positions and our ability to place balls where we want to place them," he said.
The ladies have added a tenth player to their roster; Freshman Aeriel Johnson, a 5-11 outside hitter from Kalispell arrived on campus late last week.
Marble said for the next couple of weeks Johnson will work on becoming familiar with the Buccaneer team and strategies and by the end of the month, he expects to see the Flathead High School graduate contributing on the floor.