Fifth-ranked Dordt turned back a strong challenge from No. 24 Morningside when the Mustangs dropped their GPAC volleyball opener 25-23, 25-16, 22-25, 25-23 on Wednesday in Sioux Center, Iowa.
The Mustangs, who debuted in the NAIA national rankings one day prior to the match, saw their record drop to 7-6 after their fifth loss against a nationally ranked opponent this season. Dordt, last year’s NAIA national runner-up, climbed to 12-2.
Ema Altena, a NAIA third-team All-American last season, pounded a match-high 24 kills for the Defenders.
Jenn Buyert, playing in her home town of Sioux Center, slammed 12 kills to pace the Mustangs’ attack. Emma Gerber was right behind with 11 kills, followed by Ashley Vande Stouwe with nine and freshman Krista Zenk with seven. Zenk did much of her damage to the Defenders in the third and fourth sets and finished with a team-high .333 hitting percentage.
Nikki Oberfoell came up with a match-high 16 digs for the Mustangs and was joined in double figures by freshman Merrin Van Velzen with 12. Callie Alberico was next with eight digs to go along with 34 assists.
Vande Stouwe led the Mustangs’ blocking effort with five block assists.
Julia Lindbergh pounded six kills and Altena contributed five terminations to lift the Defenders to a 25-23 win in the first set. The Mustangs’ were led in the opening set by Buyert, who slammed five kills, and Gerber with four kills.
The Defenders took an early 10-6 advantage in the first set before the Mustangs rallied with a seven-point run to open a 13-10 advantage. Morningside led 19-17 late in the set and later rallied from a 23-21 deficit when an Alberico ace serve tied the score at 23. Dordt scored the final two points on a kill by Lindbergh and an ace serve by Aubrey Drake that hit the top of the net before landing in the Mustangs’ court for the set winner.
Altena dominated play when the Defenders attacked at a .447 clip and won the second set 25-16. Altena slammed eight kills in the set, including the match winner. Altena was at her best during a 12-4 Dordt scoring run when the hosts turned a slight 9-7 lead into an insurmountable 21-11 advantage. Altena had six kills from the outside and Leah Kamp contributed a pair of kills from the middle to spark the Defenders’ pivotal 12-4 scoring run.
After attacking at a .188 clip in each of the first two sets, the Mustangs’ hitters cranked it up to .282 when the guests took the third set. The Mustangs took an early 4-1 lead after kills by Gerber, Vande Stouwe and Zenk. Dordt came back to tie the score at five and took its final lead of the set at 15-14 on a kill from the middle by Kamp. The Mustangs answered with a 6-1 scoring run that featured kills by Zenk, Alberico and Buyert to go up 20-16. Dordt rallied to tie the score at 22 before a Buyert kill put the Mustangs ahead to stay at 23-22. A kill by Gerber made it 24-22 before an errant Defender attack provided the Mustangs with the set point.
Morningside reeled off six straight points to take an early 6-0 lead in a fourth set where both teams struggled to mount a consistent attack, in fact, both teams had negative hitting percentages midway through the set when the Mustangs held a 13-12 advantage. Dordt took its first lead of the set at 15-14 on a kill from the middle by Kamp and the Defenders made it 17-14 after another kill by Kamp and a kill by Altena. The Mustangs came right back and took a 21-20 lead on a combined block by Buyert and Brittni Olson. Morningside took its final lead of the set, 23-22, on a Dordt attack error before the hosts tied the score at 23 on a kill by All-America setter Jamie Gesink and eventually scored the match winner on an ace serve by Drake.
The Mustangs will face another nationally ranked opponent in their next match with a 7:30 p.m. contest against No. 9 Midland on Tuesday, Sept. 12, in Fremont, Neb.