If coach Kelley Hartley Hutton ever questioned the mental toughness of her IPFW women's volleyball team, she got a definitive answer Saturday at the Gates Center.
After losing the third game in overtime against North Dakota State, IPFW rallied from its one-game deficit to win the final two games and beat the defending Summit League champions 25-23, 19-25, 26-28, 25-15 15-8.
Hutton said she was impressed with the way the Mastodons (15-3, 5-1 Summit League) responded being down late in the match and still being able to get the victory.
"It was gritty," she said. "It wasn't easy, but winning isn't always easy."
IPFW held North Dakota State (5-11, 2-4 Summit League) to less than a .100 attack percentage in each of the final two games, including the Bison hitting a match-worst -.136 in the decisive fifth game. In addition, the Mastodons had five blocks in the last two games to help secure their fifth consecutive conference victory.
Hutton said one of the biggest reasons for the team's success in the fourth and fifth game was its maturity and ability to make several in-match adjustments. The coach also said the Mastodons severing better later in the match caused Bison's offense to run more out-of-system sets.
"We just played with more courage," Hutton said. "We were zipping in our serves and applying pressure. It's tough on North Dakota State when we are applying pressure."
With this comeback victory, IPFW and IUPUI remain tied for first place in The Summit League.
North Dakota State, the preseason favorite to win the conference, drops into a tie for fifth place and is two-matches behind fourth-place Kansas City for the final qualifying spot in the conference tournament.
Despite North Dakota State's early season struggles, setter Megan Steenhuysen said being able to defeat the defending Summit League champions is a significant victory.
"We need to send a message. I don't care that they are [2-4] in conference," Steenhuysen said. "They one of the best teams talent wise in our conference and it's always good to beat them, especially at home."
IPFW in the victory out-hit North Dakota State .230 to .159 and had three players finish the match with at least 10 kills.
Outside attacker Emily Spencer led all IPFW players with 20 kills, including a game-high five kills in the fourth game. In addition, middle attacker Jessie Manwaring had 16 kills, while outside attacker Kendall Wienkes added 11 kills.
Libero Tessa McGill also added a season-high 29 digs. This was the 12th match this season that McGill, who entered the weekend fourth in the nation averaging 6.02 digs per game, recorded at least 20 digs.
Following this victory, IPFW will continue conference play as it travels to play Nebraska-Omaha at 7 p.m. Friday.
Steenhuysen said going into the rest of conference play a win like it had against North Dakota State is important because it shows that IPFW has an ability to bounce back and win a five-game match.
"It wasn't our best performance," Steenhuysen said. "We came out flat in the beginning, but I was just proud with how we turned it up at the end."