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Bison volleyball counting on veterans to make a run at Summit success

NDSU volleyball returns its top two hitters from last season.

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North Dakota State’s Syra Tanchin rises for a spike against the University of North Dakota during their volleyball game on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, at Bentson Bunker Fieldhouse.
Alyssa Goelzer/Forum Communications Co.
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FARGO — North Dakota State head volleyball coach Jennifer Lopez said there was a “calmness” on the first day of practice with her team, the result of dependable veteran players and a team that had a good offseason. Not even a fire drill in the middle of workouts at Bentson Bunker Fieldhouse interrupted that.

For starters, the Bison return their top two hitters from a year ago in senior Syra Tanchin and junior Ali Hinze, both of whom had 370 kills. In all, nine players who started at one time are back.

“I know for us this spring was a really good improvement from even our fall,” Tanchin said. “It was like a whole different team from last fall. We worked really hard, so I think all of us just want to have that season where it finally all clicks and it all comes together.”

It’s been awhile since the Bison had that season. The last winning record in a non-pandemic–shortened season was 19-9 in 2017. NDSU went 10-8 in 2020.

They were 12-18 a year ago, finishing seventh in the Summit League. In all, six players who played at least 80 sets are back including libero Taylor Quan, who led the team with 311 digs and senior Michelle Glover, who paced the team in blocks with 98.

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The Bison have four seniors and four juniors.

“The biggest reason is overall experience,” Lopez said of the prospects for taking a run at a Summit title. “We have a lot of kids back who have played and then also our team culture. They’ve put in a ton of time on making sure they can handle situations, they know what they need to do to handle challenges that are going to get thrown their way. That is half the sport of volleyball when you have ups and downs and it comes down to a game of mistakes. How do we handle those mistakes?"

Statistically in the Summit last year, the Bison generally were where they finished in the standings in most of the major categories. They were seventh in hitting with a .198 average, seventh in kills, sixth in assists and ninth in blocks.

Moreover, the Bison were last in giving up blocks with 242.

Those figures were long behind them on Tuesday, however.

“I don’t think our locker room has ever been more happy,” Hinze said, “so it’s easy to get back into it.”

The Bison open with an exhibition against Minnesota State Moorhead on Aug. 19. They travel to tournaments at Southeast Missouri State and Louisiana Lafayette before hosting its own tournament Sept. 9-10 with Chicago State, Central Michigan and Northern Arizona.

It may not be easy navigating the Summit. Last year, four teams had at least 20 wins. But the slate was wiped clean this week with the players returning to practice.

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“The energy in the gym was honestly some of the best I’ve ever seen,” Lopez said. “They started that off this spring. The energy and excitement to be back makes my job that much more fun because then I get to teach and share and get them to continue to be better. They’ve truly taken it upon themselves to elevate their style of play.”

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Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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