SMSU VOLLEYBALL: Mustangs return for weekend homestand against Minot State and the University of Mary

Independent file photo SMSU’s Kaylee Burmeister serves the ball during their Nov. 2016 match against Minot State University. The Mustangs will face the Beavers on Friday at home.

MARSHALL – No. 2 Southwest Minnesota State (16-1, 8-1 NSIC) will look to return to its winning ways this weekend as it hosts Minot State (3-14, 0-9 NSIC) on Friday night at 6 p.m., followed by another home match against the University of Mary on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m.

SMSU coach Terry Culhane said the loss against Northern State last Saturday can be a learning lesson for his team and that they can move forward as they look to the next part of their schedule.

“I hope it does. We’ve always talked about how much better can we get and where we want to be at the end of the season instead of the middle of it,” Culhane said. “I think our kids can get caught up in it but it’s not a very easy conference to try and think about going unbeaten. You go into every match with the idea of wanting to win and trying to do things that’ll put you in a position to win.”

Culhane said they need to continue to get better on the defensive end, especially with the effectiveness of their blocking and digs.

“We have to get better defensively. By that I mean our blocking wasn’t very effective on Saturday and our back row wasn’t very tough defensively,” Culhane said. “There’s two parts to playing defense and we have to get better at both of them. That’s something that we’ve worked a lot on during the season.”

On the offensive end, Culhane added they need to be more efficient with their hitting percentages on a consistent level.

“We have to be a more efficient team in terms of kill percentage,” Culhane said. “There’s a direct correlation about the more hitting errors you make, the lower you hit, and the lower that number gets, the less of a chance we’ll win.”

The Mustangs have also reached near the midway point of the conference season. With four teams currently sitting with one loss and one team with two losses in conference play, every matchup becomes even more crucial.

Culhane said he wasn’t sure where his team would be at this point in the season, but still believes his players still have a lot of untapped potential as they continue the second half of their NSIC schedule.

“I’m actually surprised where we’re at recordwise. Going into this season, I didn’t know where we would be at recordwise after the first two weekends before conference play because we played in two difficult tournaments,” Culhane said. “Our kids have found ways to win and overall seasonwise, we’ve done a lot of good things. I still think there’s a significant number of things we can get better at that will make our team harder to beat.”

SMSU Quick Hits

– Taylor Reiss has moved into 9th place all-time in career kills and set a season high with 28 kills at Northern State last Saturday.

– Megan Larson became the all-time leader in assists per set with her 13.0 assists per set last weekend.

– SMSU remains in the nation’s top-five teams after dropping to No.2 in this week’s AVCA Top-25 Poll.

– The Mustangs’ 16-0 start was the best start to season in school history and the second longest win streak overall in SMSU history.

– SMSU has swept nine opponents in its 17 matches this year.

– The Mustangs are the second ranked team in the nation with 15.45 kills per set.

– SMSU is in the midst of a 13-match home unbeaten streak, the third longest streak since the start of the 2004 season.

Minot State

Match Preview

Series History

– SMSU leads 7-0.

– SMSU has won all seven matches over the Beavers since Minot State joined the NSIC in 2012.

– The Mustangs have never dropped a set to the Beavers and were pushed to extra points in just one set back in 2014, a match SMSU would win 25-16, 26-24, 25-23.

– SMSU is 4-0 all-time against Minot State at home in Marshall.

– SMSU swept Minot State, 25-15, 25-18, 25-18 in the final match of the 2016 regular season to clinch a share of the 2016 NSIC Championship.

Minot State Team Notes

– Overall Record: 3-14

– Road Record: 0-4

– Current Streak: Lost 13

– The Beavers will play at Dickinson State University on Tuesday night for a midweek non-conference match before traveling to play SMSU and USF over the weekend.

– Minot State’s offense averaged 12.7 kills per set over the two matches last week.

– The Beavers hit .233 vs. WSC which is a season-high in NSIC play and their third best mark on the season overall.

– Minot State hit .104 for the week last Friday and Saturday with a total of 89 kills and 42 errors in the two matches.

– Freshman Karli Koza notched 56 digs on the weekend, including a season-high 36 digs vs. WSC which ranks first in the NSIC for most in a match.

– Hayley Swain posted a career-high 17 kills along with three blocks in 3-1 loss vs. WSC.

U-Mary Match

Preview

Series History

– SMSU leads 17-0.

– The Mustangs have never lost to the University of Mary in the 17 all-time matchups that dates back to 2006.

– SMSU has only dropped two sets in 17 all-time matches vs U-Mary which came in two separate 3-1 wins for SMSU in 2015 and 2016.

– SMSU is 9-0 all-time over U-Mary at home in Marshall.

– The Mustangs swept the last match against U-Mary which came on the final weekend of the 2016 regular season in which SMSU clinched its share of the 2016 NSIC Championship.

U-Mary Team Notes

– Overall Record: 5-13

– Road Record: 2-4

– Current Streak: Lost 6

– The Marauders are coming off of a four-match homestand and will begin a stretch of four consecutive road matches this weekend.

– U-Mary is in the midst of a stretch of five straight matches against teams receiving votes in the AVCA Top-25 and will extend that stretch to seven straight as they face SMSU and USF on the road this weekend.

– Lauren Randall, second in the NSIC in both kills per set (4.41) and points per set (4.79), opened the weekend with 16 kills and a .270 hitting percentage against Wayne State.

– Junior setter, Amanda Lopes, posted 30 assists on 34 kills against Wayne State and 23 on 26 against Augustana.

– Freshman, Morgan Schnabel, is second on the team in total kills with 110, followed by Anna Nietfeld at 83.

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