The Valley City State University volleyball team showed glimpses of what its deep front line was capable of in Saturday's season opening losses to Waldorf (Iowa) College and Jamestown College.
Given the chances, the rotating barrage of Aurissa Martens, Jill Noeske, Rachel Hummel, Alley Theroux and Kelsey Labodi had no problem trying for kills.
The problem, especially in a three game loss to Jamestown, was a back line that struggled to get balls to its setter to run the offense as planned.
"I told them in post game that if you can't pass the ball and you can't dig the ball, we can't hit," VCSU coach Susan Kolbow said. "We're fairly strong offensively and we need to be able to get our hitters the ball and we're not doing that."
Instead, the young back line struggled with passes that were slightly off the mark and digs that went the wrong way.
The Vikings lost 25-21, 12-25, 25-18, 25-18 to Waldorf and 25-18, 25-15, 25-9 to Jamestown in the first of three matches the team will play with their Interstate 94 rival.
Against Waldorf, the Vikings came close in every set but struggled to get over the hump.
The one set they won, VCSU came out strong and started with 10-6 lead, which the team built on until they closed it out 13 points ahead.
In the other three sets, the Vikings got down early and couldn't quite close the gap. In the final game, Valley City was down 22-12 but solidified its play and narrowed the gap as far as six points before the match ended.
"We were pretty streaky," Kolbow said. "We had streaks of greatness and then we had streaks of 'oh no, we need to work on many aspects of our game.'"
She credited part of the issue to first match jitters.
"Players are always nervous and they don't fully trust the players they're playing around because it's different," she said. "It's hard to simulate a true match feeling in practice."
Against Jamestown, the Vikings got a full gymnasium of fans but struggled as the match went on.
The two teams went back and forth early in the first game. The Vikings got an early rally to go up 4-2, but Jamestown responded with seven of the next nine points to go up 9-6. Valley City tried chipping away at the lead but couldn't get it closer than three points.
In the final two games, Jamestown got ahead with early rallies.
The second game began with Jamestown scoring 11 of the first 15 points. Valley City eventually worked the lead down to 18-13 before Jamestown went on a 7-2 run to end the game.
Jamestown then opened the final game with a 10-2 run. Valley City then had three straight points, including two consecutive kills by freshman Kelsey Labodi, to make it 10-5.
Jamestown then went on a 9-1 scoring run to make it 20-6. Valley City scored three more points before Jamestown ended the match on a 5-0 run.
Martens, a junior, led Valley City with 13 kills in the first game. Freshman hitter Hummel had six kills, one block, and four block assists. Setters Stephanie Miller and Anna Neufeld had 18 and 13 assists each.
Against Jamestown, Theroux, Labodi and Noeski had four kills each and Noeski had four block assists. Neufeld led the team with eight assists.