The Southwest Minnesota State volleyball team started the 2013 season strong with a pair of wins at the Grand Valley State Classic on Friday.
The Mustangs (2-0) swept No. 16 Truman State (Mo.) and defeated Eckerd (Fla.) 3-1 in the first day of the tournament.
"I thought we got better as the day went on," said SMSU head coach Terry Culhane. "We had a couple kids out of position and that made it more of a challenge. But we competed hard and beat two good teams today."
SMSU opened the day in Allendale, Mich., with the three-game sweep of No. 16 Truman State in a rematch of the 2012 NCAA Tournament First Round match where the Mustangs also swept the Bulldogs. SMSU won by scores of 25-23, 27-25, 25-20.
In the first game Abbey Thissen put down 14 kills while Sarah Parker added 10. Emilee Gutzmer had 38 set assists to go with 11 digs.
In the second match of the day, SMSU went four games with Eckerd, coming away with the 3-1 victory.
The Tritons won the first game 25-23, but the Mustangs would come back to control the last three, winning 25-18, 25-21, 25-18.
"It's good for us to face that competition so we can get better," Culhane said. "Eckerd has a good team and Truman obviously has a good team."
Whitney Burmeister recorded a 13-kill, 13-dig double-double while Thissen added another 20 kills. Gutzmer had 50 set assists in the win.
The Mustangs will finish the opening tournament with Wayne State (Mich.) and host school Grand Valley State (Mich.) at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. respectively.
"We got in a couple spots where I was curious how we would compete since we have a lot of younger players on the court, but we responded as our experienced kids responded positively," said Culhane. "I thought for it being our first day and not really knowing what to expect, we did a number of good things.
"It was a good day and we have a couple of tough opponents again (today)."
SMSU 3, Eckerd 1
Eckerd25 18 21 18
SMSU23 25 25 25
Ace Serves: E-Lindsay Biggs 1, Ali McAlvany 1; SMSU-Whitney Burmeister 2, Jessica Thelemann 1, Emilee Gutzmer 1, Rachel Westby 1, Bailey Kirchhoff 1.
Kills: E-Biggs 17, McAlvany 10; SMSU-Abbey Thissen 20, Burmeister 13, Claire Sames 12.
Digs: E-McAlvany 12, Kaleigh Humphrey 12, Biggs 10; SMSU-Westby 16, Burmeister 13.
Set Assists: E-Madison Burr 26, Emily Schadow 16; SMSU-Gutzmer 50.
Blocks (solo-assists): E-Biggs 1-2, Grace Jones 0-4, Katarina Milojevic 0-4, Kayla Parker 0-3; SMSU-Sames 0-2, Burmeister 0-1, Jessica Thelemann 0-1.
SMSU 3, Truman State 0
Truman State23 25 20
SMSU25 27 25
Ace Serves: T-Abby Heise 1; SMSU-Christina Wolf 1, Bailey Kirchhoff 1.
Kills: T-Allie Brak 16, Ali Patterson 7; SMSU-Abbey Thissen 14, Sarah Parker 10, Whitney Burmeister 9.
Digs: T-Abby Moser 19, Heise 9, Heather Hargadine 9; SMSU-Burmeister 16, Rachel Westby 12, Emilee Gutzmer 11.
Set Assists: T-Meghan Zimmerman 27; SMSU-Gutzmer 38.
Blocks (solo-assists): T-Brak 1-1; Emilee Walters 0-5, Zimmerman 0-3; SMSU-Burmeister 1-1, Sarah Parker 0-3.