SMSU VOLLEYBALL: Mustangs sweep past Concordia-St. Paul to win NSIC Tournament

Photo courtesy of Justin Oakman Photography The Southwest Minnesota State University volleyball team poses with the NSIC Tournament Championship trophy and banner after defeating Concordia-St. Paul 3-0 on Sunday.

ST. PAUL – Taylor Reiss, the tournament Most Valuable Player, recorded a match-high 25 kills to lead Southwest Minnesota State to a 3-0 victory over Concordia-St. Paul in championship match of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Tournament on Sunday.

SMSU (28-3), the No. 2 seed in the tournament and the No. 4 ranked team in Division II, won by scores of 25-19, 25-21, 25-14, over the top-seeded and No. 1 ranked Golden Bears (28-3).

SMSU coach Terry Culhane said it took a group effort to earn the win and felt his team stepped up to the challenge.

“It really was a team effort. I felt all the kids responded well to the challenges of the championship game,” Culhane said. “They played and competed hard and that’s all you can ask for.”

Reiss along with teammates Kaylee Burmeister and Megan Larson were all named to the six-person all-tournament team. Tori Hanson and Brooklyn Lewis from CSP and Tahlyr Banks from Augustana were also named to the team.

The tournament championships gives SMSU the NSIC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The official 64-team tournament field will be announced today at 6:30 p.m. CST at NCAA.com. SMSU was No. 2 in this week’s Central Region rankings with CSP at No. 1. The two teams split a pair of matches during the regular season prior to Sunday’s match.

Culhane said it would be nice to be able to host the regional but they’re main focus is on who they play next.

“Anybody would like to be in that position,” Culhane said. “We’re just trying to control what we do and our team did that. We know that we’re in the regional; we just need to see who we play next.”

The tournament championship is the second in team history (2012) in five championship match appearances. SMSU was runner-up in 2004, 2005 and 2016.

Reiss, who on Saturday set a school record with 41 kills, finished today’s match hitting .397 with just two errors on 58 attacks. Burmeister and Brooke Borchardt each added eight kills to help pace the Mustangs, while Megan Larson added 42 assists. Dani Potter racked 16 digs to lead the defense with Erin Corrigan and Burmeister each adding 12 digs. Potter has now recorded 16 or more digs in four of the last six matches.

Culhane said their key on offense was the play of their outsides and middles as well as their serving.

“Our outsides in Taylor and Kaylee hit really well and our middles were active and occupied blockers,” Culhane said. “We also served well and our pass serve was really good.”

SMSU finished the match hitting .298 with 49 kills on 121 attempts. The Mustangs were solid at the net recording eight team blocks with Sarina Smith leading the way with five assisted blocks.

SMSU never trailed in the opening set, building an early 12-8 lead. CSP would rally to tie the set at 12, but two kills by Reiss and one by Smith put SMSU back in front at 15-12.

CSP would cut the lead to 18-17, but a kill by Burmeister followed by a service ace by Burmeister gave the Mustangs a three-point cushion and never looked back in earning the set victory.

Set 2 saw 10 ties and five lead changes in a hard-fought battle. CSP reeled off five straight points in take a 12-8 advantage, but SMSU came right back scoring six of the next seven points, capped by Larson service ace to give SMSU a 14-13 lead.

Following a kill by CSP to tie the set at 14, SMSU countered with a kill by Reiss and a block by Smith and Caedyn Reinhardt to push the lead to 16-14, and SMSU never trailed in the set again. Four of SMSU’s last 10 points in the set came via block.

In set 3, the teams battled to a 7-7 tie, but a kill by Burmeister started a 5-0 run, which was finished off by Burmeister ace serve, to make the score 12-7.

The teams split the next four points before SMSU put the match away with five straight points to build a 19-9 lead.

Borchardt would end the set with a kill off a pass from Larson to seal the three-set victory.

Lewis led the Golden Bears with 18 kills, while Hanson finished with 23 digs.

Southwest Minnesota State will be making its 14th straight NCAA appearance and 15th overall.

SATURDAY

SMSU 3,

Augustana 2

ST. PAUL – Taylor Reiss had another record setting day as she racked up a career-high 41 kills with a .367 hitting percentage in a thrilling 25-22, 23-25, 23-25, 25-21, 15-8 win for Southwest Minnesota State over Augustana in the first of two NSIC semifinal matches on Saturday afternoon in the Gangelhoff Center.

Reiss, who tied an NSIC Tournament record for kills in a single match (31) in Wednesday’s quarterfinal win, set the NSIC Tournament record and SMSU school record with her 41 kills on Saturday.

Reiss and the Mustangs’ second primary outside hitter, Kaylee Burmeister, combined for 63 of SMSU’s 76 kills and 41 total digs between the two juniors.

Burmeister had 22 kills with a .340 hitting percentage while Sarina Smith added seven kills on just 16 attacks with one error (.375). Smith also had five of the Mustangs’ eight total blocks in the win.

SMSU, trailing by a point in the opening set, went on a 7-0 run to take a 23-18 lead and later finished off a 25-22 win on a kill from Reiss.

The Mustangs climbed out of a late two-point deficit to even the second set at 22-22 but lost three of the final points as Augustana won the second set 25-23 to even the match.

A tight third set that saw 11 tied scores and five lead changes was even at 23-23 before Augustana won the final two points to take a 2-1 lead.

The Mustangs came out on fire in the fourth set jumping out to a 12-5 lead after a 6-0 run. A quick stretch in which Reiss grabbed four kills in five rallies gave SMSU a 19-11 lead in the set which they would ride on the way to a 25-21 win to send the match to a fifth set.

After dropping the first three points of the fifth set, SMSU went on a 7-1 run to take a 7-4 lead. The Mustangs went ahead 8-6 as the teams switched sides, and followed up by winning the next four points to give SMSU a 12-6 lead. Kaylee Burmeister added two more kills in the final moments as SMSU punched its ticket to the NSIC Championship with a 15-8 win in set five.

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