Southwest Minnesota State volleyball head coach Terry Culhane wasn't pleased with how his second-ranked Mustangs responded to the challenge of taking on defending national champion Concordia-St. Paul in a 3-0 loss Friday. He was much happier with how his players responded Saturday.
Facing their second ranked opponent in two days, the Mustangs swept No. 11 Minnesota State-Mankato 25-22, 25-19, 25-19 in Mankato to rebound from their first loss of the season.
"Any time you play someone that's very good, you have to rise to the occasion, and I didn't think we did that at all (on Friday)," Culhane said. "We said going into Mankato that the best we could do was go 1-1 this weekend, and I thought our players did a good job of battling and competing. Mankato's been a tough place to play for us and I thought we played well."
Senior Mary Groth led the SMSU attack with a match-high 14 kills, and freshman Abbey Thissen added 11 kills. Freshman McKell Anderson chipped in seven kills and had a match-high 15 digs for the Mustangs.
The first set saw back-and-forth action until the end, when SMSU earned the final two points thanks to a service error by the Mavericks and a block by Groth and Brooke Burmeister.
MSU bounced back and took a 12-8 lead in the second set before SMSU charged back to tie the score at 14 on a kill by Thissen. SMSU used the momentum and capped the set with a 6-2 run. The Mustangs held the Mavericks to a .095 attack percentage for the set.
SMSU jumped out to a quick 4-1 lead in the third set with two kills by Thissen, one by Groth and an attack error by MSU-Mankato. The Mustangs held the lead the rest of the way.
"I thought we played hard and we did enough positive things to win three games in a row, and that's always encouraging," Culhane said. "Sometimes those 3-0 matches aren't quite as easy as they look. A lot of it depends on a couple points here and a couple points there, and we were able to win those to earn a positive outcome in the match."
The Mustangs moved to 8-1 overall and 1-1 in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference with the win, while MSU-Mankato fell to 7-3 overall and 1-1 in the NSIC.
After nine straight road matches to start off the season, the Mustangs will finally play their first home match Tuesday when they host NSIC newcomer Sioux Falls at 7 p.m. in the PE Gym.
"We're really excited to be able to play at home this week," Culhane said. "It's nice to not have to get on the bus and go somewhere. We always get good fan support and it will be fun to play in front of the home crowd."
SMSU25 25 25
MSU22 19 19
Ace Serves: SMSU-Brooke Burmeister 2, Devin Diedrich 2, McKell Anderson; MSU-Kaitlyn Braun, Jill Storlie, Ellie Van De Steeg.
Kills: SMSU-Mary Groth 14, Abbey Thissen 11, Diedrich 7, Burmeister 7, Anderson 5; MSU-Chelsea Fogarty 11, Courteney Steinhauser 11, Tiana Runck 6, Storlie 5.
Digs: SMSU-Anderson 15, Rachel Westby 12, Emilee Gutzmer 9; MSU-Kelli Elhardt 10, Samantha Dale 8.
Set Assists: SMSU-Gutzmer 43; MSU-Van DeSteeg 33.
Blocks (solo-assists): SMSU-Diedrich 1-4, Thissen 0-3, Gorth 1-1, Burmeister 0-2; MSU-Steinhauser 0-5, Van De Steeg 2-2, Storlie 0-3, Tiana Runck 0-3.