The Bentson Bunker Fieldhouse has been remodeled and North Dakota State and the University of North Dakota are now NCAA Division I volleyball teams. But one thing remained the same in the renewal of the long-time rivalry on Thursday night: the Bison won.
In the first match in seven years between the schools, a standing-room only crowd of 1,638 - the fourth largest in NDSU history - saw the Bison take a 26-24, 25-21, 25-19 victory to improve their record to 77-11 in the series.
"It was amazing in here with all the fans for both teams," said NDSU sophomore Brynn Joki. "That got our intensity up and our level of play up."
Joki certainly played at a high level. The NDSU school record for kills in a three-set match is 26, and for a while, it looked like the 6-foot-1 outside hitter might challenge it. Joki finished with 18 kills, 10 digs and two service aces and was the player UND had no answer for all night.
"She played like an All-American," said UND head coach Ashley Hardee.
It's not often a team doesn't take its first lead until reaching the 25th point - and win the game - but that's what NDSU did in Game 1. Give credit to Joki for rescuing her team.
Down 24-22, her two kills saved two game points by UND.
"She really made a statement for herself," said NDSU head coach Erich Hinterstocker.
After a Christy Knuth block gave the Bison their first lead of the night at 25-24, Joki ended it with a block at the net.
She wasn't done, either, registering 13 kills before the Bison reached 20 points in Game 2. Nicole Sheridan's kill and service ace were key points late in the game and the Bison took their 2-0 lead into intermission.
It was a frustrating deficit for the Sioux, who led most of the first two sets and yet had nothing to show for it. NDSU didn't take its first lead in Game 2 until 12-11.
"There's a lot of volleyball to be played in each set," Hardee said.
NDSU didn't face much resistance taking a commanding lead halfway through the final game. Joki's production and Brooke VandenBergh's 11 kills led the way, but NDSU got valuable contributions from Sheridan and middle hitter Megan Lambertson. Lambertson had eight kills in 10 attacks and Sheridan had four kills in six attempts.
"That was really important for us," Hinterstocker said.
The subplot in it all was the matchup of Joki vs. her sister, UND hitter Erin Joki, who finished with seven kills.
"There was a lot of pressure on her and Erin," Hinterstocker said. "It was the first time they ever played against each other and both played really well. But Brynn was the star of the night. She was on a mission to play her best volleyball."
UND (8-4) (kills-blocks-aces): Smed 9-1-1, Krueger 0-0-0 (29 assists), Trefz 9-1-0, Russell 4-1-0, Joki 7-2-1, Parlich 3-3-0, Halvorson 0-0-0 (7 digs), Turner 0-0-0, Bohannon 0-0-0, Munkeby 0-0-0.
NDSU (5-4): VandenBergh 11-0-0 (11 digs), Lopez 7-1-1 (40 assists), Knuth 3-2-0, Joki 18-1-2 (10 digs), Lambertson 8-2-0, Sheridan 4-1-2, Henning 0-0-0, Dombeck 0-0-0.
Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be heard on the Saturday Morning Sports Show, 9-11 a.m. on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5546.
Kolpack's NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia