Thursday, Devils Lake (1-8, 1-8 EDC) suffered its fifth straight sweep to the hands of Fargo South, (9-12, 6-8 EDC), 3-0 (23-25, 21-25, 25-14). However, this is the second straight game in which two of the three sets were decided by six points or less.

The score of the Firebirds' last two games can be deceiving. Both games were sweeps in favor of the opponent, but if a few more points fell in favor of Devils Lake, the result might've been completely different. 

Thursday, Devils Lake (1-8, 1-8 EDC) suffered its fifth straight sweep to the hands of Fargo South, (9-12, 6-8 EDC), 3-0 (23-25, 21-25, 25-14). However, this is the second straight game in which two of the three sets were decided by six points or less. 

"The girls just need to go out onto the court, have fun and play a game they want to play," Firebirds head coach Megan Sylling said. "They can't force something that isn't necessarily there. They have the talent, skill, and everything they need. Now they just need to figure out how to compete with these teams." 

On Tuesday, the Firebirds were swept by Fargo North but lost set two by two points and set three by six. Thursday against Fargo South, they only lost set one by two and set two by four. Both of the Firebirds' narrow set losses against the Bruins came behind comeback efforts. 

Devils Lake was down 13-6 in set one before coming back to eventually lead the set 20-19 off of three straight kills from junior middle hitter Rachel Dahlen. In set two, Devils Lake was down six before going on a 7-1 run to pull within one of the Bruins at 21-20. 

"We need to try and stay competitive the entire time instead of digging these bigger holes," Sylling said. "That's going to be the difference. Six missed serves in one game is going to change the outcome of the game. We would've taken the second set if we hadn't missed six serves. We need to focus on just staying competitive and working hard during the games."

Errors did set the Firebirds back, stunning the comeback effort. The Bruins closed out set two off of a 4-1 run when the Firebirds had pulled within one of a tie. While errors did set Devils Lake back, Dahlen and senior middle hitter Karli Krogfoss continued to keep the Firebirds in it. Both Dahlen and Krogfoss had six kills on the night, with Krogfoss picking up three digs and a block to add to the effort. 

"Karli has been working super hard and has been pushing every point of the game," Sylling said. "She is a competitor and she goes out there and tries to push each point." 

From past games, Devils Lake has seen some improvement on the defensive end as they would collect 51 digs on the night. The strong defensive response was headed by Jaydn Frelich, who recorded a team-high 15 digs. She would be followed by senior setter Jenna Frelich and senior libero Ellie Volk, who both racked up eight digs. However, while the defense continues to rise, there is still some cleaning to do. 

"We just need to clean up some blocking errors and tighten up on that," Sylling said. "We also need to watch for open tips and getting those big hits. The girls have started to move a lot better on the court and adapting to different coverage techniques." 

In playing a strictly conference-only schedule, the Firebirds have had to adapt to the change compared to last season. Just over the halfway point of the season, Devils Lake is slowly starting to rise and pull closer and closer to some of the top competitors in the state. 

The Firebirds meets Fargo South in the regular-season finale on Nov. 5 in Fargo, but until then Devils Lake has a tough stretch coming up. They face West Fargo Sheyenne at home Saturday and Grand Forks Central next Tuesday in Grand Forks. They wrap up the busy week stretch at Fargo Shanley on Oct. 24. 

Sylling said there might be a little bit of an intimidation factor when the team comes to the floor, but the Firebirds' last two results have proved that they can compete with anyone.  

"The girls can see that they can compete with these teams," Sylling said. "They can hold their own and they are competitors on the court. Now we just need to figure out that tipping point and how to go from 25-23 to 25-23. We just need to push that final effort during the game." 

Jack Williams covers Lake Region sports and general news for The Devils Lake Journal. Contact him via email at JGWilliams1@gannett.com, on Twitter @jackgwilliams, or phone at 701-662-2127.