The Dakota Wesleyan University volleyball team emphasizes coming out with the right mentality. It did, but a couple of mental miscues cost it on Wednesday at the Corn Palace.

It let an nine-point lead slip away in the second set as the Tigers fell 22-25, 26-24, 25-15 and 25-20 to No. 7 Northwestern (Iowa) to open Great Plains Athletic Conference play.

“I’m really disappointed in the second set where we had a lead but just made too many mental mistakes,” DWU coach Lindsay Wilber said. “But it’s not a fluke. This team we have this year is a very talented team. … If we would have got that second set, I don’t know what would have happened.”

Backed by a raucous student section, DWU (8-1, 0-1 GPAC) had a chance to take a two-set lead after winning seven of the final 10 points in the first set. It led the Red Raiders (8-0, 1-0) by as many as six points in the opening set.

“One thing we really feed off of is excitement,” Wagner native Emily Brunsing said. “Excitement is a big thing for us. We just took every point and tried to feed off of it. That really worked out well for us in the first two sets.”

The momentum shifted late in the second set, though. Northwestern was able to erase a nine-point deficit (14-5) and late three-point hole (21-18).

DWU started to miss serves and struggled to put down kills against Northwestern’s tall line. The Red Raiders had 12 of their 14 blocks after the first set, with Emily Van Ginkel and Bekah Horstman both blocking five in the match.

“It was things on our side of the court that we were making mistakes,” Wilber said. “Not things Northwestern was doing to make us make mistakes.”

Not being able to hold onto the second set defined the rest of the match. The Tigers came out flat in the third set, falling behind 8-2 and never coming closer than four points.

They trailed 3-2 after five points in the fourth set, too. Brunsing had one of her team-high 15 kills, though. She also had three digs and a block.

Even as the lead grew to 17-10 and 22-15, the Tigers never let it get out of hand like the third set. They closed the gap to four points, 22-18, but could never tie.

“We got a little shook up there at the end (of the second set),” Brunsing said. “We all had to keep a stronger mentality. We always say the first five points we need to start out the set right, and that’s what we needed to do the other sets.”

Bridgett Knobbe dished out 38 assists, with Becky Frick recording 11 digs, 10 kills and two blocks. Brittany Bergquist had nine kills and two blocks, as well.

DWU hosts Presentation at noon and York (Neb.) at 4 p.m. on Saturday at the Corn Palace.

“We’re excited to be here and not have to travel,” Wilber said. “So far our tournaments on the weekend have been out of town, so we’re excited to be here in the Palace again.”