SMSU VOLLEYBALL: No. 1 Mustangs stay undefeated with 3-0 sweep of Wayne State

Photo by Sam Thiel Members of the SMSU volleyball team celebrate after scoring a point during their match against Wayne State on Saturday.

MARSHALL – After starting their first nine games away from the friendly confides of PE Gym, the No. 1 ranked Southwest Minnesota State University volleyball team returned to its home court for a matchup against No. 17 Wayne State College on Saturday. The Mustangs continued its perfect start to the season, defeating the Wildcats 3-0 (25-16, 25-13, 25-15) to move to 10-0 on the year.

SMSU jumped out to an early lead right from the beginning, building an 11-6 advantage before pushing its advantage to 20-13 en route to a 25-16 opening set victory.

Set Two was very similar as its opening counterpart, with the Mustangs racing out to a quick 9-4 lead. SMSU then saw its first double-digit advantage of the afternoon at 16-6 and continued its dominance, taking the second set 25-13 and a commanding 2-0 lead in the match.

The third set was a little tighter to start, as SMSU held a 7-3 lead in the early portion of the set. The Mustangs then went on an 11-5 run to go up 10 at 18-8, but the Wildcats battled back, putting together a 7-0 spurt of their own later in the set to cut SMSU’s lead to three, 18-15.

SMSU wouldn’t back down, however, using a 7-0 answer highlighted by a pair of aces from Peyton Hjerleid to cap off the sweep.

Mustangs coach Terry Culhane said both teams got off to a slow start, but that his team was able to find its groove and carry the momentum throughout the rest of the match.

“We haven’t won our home opener the last two years and have gotten beaten by good teams, and Wayne is a good team,” Culhane said. “I didn’t either team started off very well in the first half of game one, but then we started getting rhythm to what we were doing and handled the ball better. I think we were able to be offensive and never really relinquished that until game three.”

Taylor Reiss led the way for the Mustangs with 14 kills and 14 digs while Sarina Smith and Brooke Borchardt added nine kills apiece and Kaylee Burmeister chipped in eight kills and eight digs. Megan Larson led in set assists with 39.

Culhane said it was big for their team to have balance on the offensive attack and that they did a nice job of handling the ball.

“It’s important for us to have balance. We use our outsides in Kaylee and Taylor a lot and part of that is when you don’t pass very well you have to use your outsides a lot and you don’t have a choice,” Culhane said. “We need our middles and rights to be effective and I just think that’s something we have to get better and we are planning on getting better at. This is probably the best we’ve handled the ball this year; we’ve been really inconsistent with that part and anytime your inconsistent passing the ball, you just don’t have balance like that.”

Reiss said their key on the offensive end was their ability evenly distribute passes to the outside hitters.

“I think we did a really good job of passing-serve this game and that’s credit to Megan, she does a great job of distributing the ball to hitters and giving them one-on-one situations, so I think that’s credit to her and our passers,” Reiss said.

The Mustangs defense held the Wildcats to just a .079 hitting percentage throughout the match. Reiss added they’ve been continuing to strengthen their defensive presence throughout the season and felt they did a better job defensively during their match against Wayne State.

“I think that’s something that we’ve always kind of struggled with is defense, but we’ve been working on it in practice to get better and better,” Reiss said. “I think the second and third set we did a really good job of defending them and keeping balls up in the air and getting a chance to swing back at them.”

SMSU will hit the road on Tuesday to take on the University of Sioux Falls at 6 p.m. Culhane said their biggest takeaway will be to continue to get better as they dive into the conference schedule.

“I think that anytime in our conference or region we can win that’s a plus. I thought we did things better today and sometimes you can get on a roll where you don’t do anything wrong,” Culhane said. “I felt we had a stretch like that in the last part of game one and game two. We just have to keep getting better; we’re in a tough stretch where we’ve played Thursday, Saturday and now Tuesday with Sioux Falls on the road which isn’t an easy match.”

WSC 16 13 15

SMSU 25 25 25

Individual Statistics

Serving (Ace): (Burmeister, Hjerleid 4 aces; Three with 1).

Kills: (Reiss 14; Smith, Borchardt 9; Burmeister 8; Larson 3; Reinhardt 1).

Digs: (Reiss 14; Corrigan 10; Burmeister 8; Larson 6; Potter 5; Hjerleid, Reinhardt 2).

Set Assists: (Larson 39; Borchardt 1).

Blocks: (Reiss, Borchardt 4; Smith 3).