Big Bend head coach Mike DeHoog grabbed a piece of scratch paper to draw two lines.
The first was neat and straight. The second was a meandering squiggle that eventually made its way forward.
The path to success, DeHoog said, most resembled the latter.
Thursday, against a team that finished second at the NWAC Tournament a year ago, Big Bend moved backward on that second line. Linn-Benton controlled the net and won in three sets 25-9, 25-16, 25-13.
“We took a little step backwards from last night, but that’s OK,” DeHoog said. “That’s life. It’s just recognizing it and pushing through it mentally and we’re going to be OK. We’re going to come back, we’re going to get stronger, we’re going to get better.“
Linn-Benton methodically increased its advantage in the first set.
The Road Runners had leads of 11-5, 16-6 and 20-9. Middle blocker Sierra Mauro connected on a spike that skipped off the hands of Big Bend libero Laurissa Kisler for the decisive point.
The Vikings responded in the next set and held a brief 4-1 lead behind a kill and good service from Maddy Powers. Powers finished with three kills, which was tied for second most on the team.
However, Linn-Benton went on a 7-1 run to take the lead for good.
It looked as if the Road Runners was cruise to another double digit win up 20-10 until the Vikings scored six of the next eight points, forcing a timeout.
“In volleyball you’ve got to be proactive, you have to think ahead,” DeHoog said. “You have to play like one to two seconds ahead, reading information so you make better decisions ahead of what’s going to happen. The game’s too fast to play reactively so we started playing proactively and that was the difference.”
Linn-Benton began the third set on a 6-0 run before Big Bend responded with four straight points. JoAndra Wilson, who finished with a team-high five kills, and Natalie Yergensen both had explosive spikes.