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SMSU VOLLEYBALL: No. 14 Mustangs return to win column sweeping Mavericks

Photo by Sam Thiel SMSU’s Emma VanHeel pushes the ball over the net during their match against MSU Mankato on Friday. SMSU defeated MSU Mankato 3-0.

MARSHALL — After falling in consecutive five-set losses on the road last weekend, the No. 14 Southwest Minnesota State University volleyball team came back home in search of a bounce-back performance against Minnesota State University, Mankato. The Mustangs did just that, as they took down the Mavericks 3-0 (25-15, 25-15, 25-16) on Friday in the PE Gym.

SMSU coach Terry Culhane said they’re now a third of the way through a nine-game stretch against extremely challenging opponents and they will need to compete hard in order to come away with victories like Friday.

“We’re in that stretch of facing a lot of tough teams and we went 0-2 last weekend and we need to get wins and battle like crazy,” Culhane said. “We’re three games into that stretch of nine, so there’s still six tough matches in front of us. We just need to be ready to play and play as hard as we possibly can.”

It was tight in the opening set, with the score deadlocked at 3-3 before SMSU took a slim 7-6 lead. The back-and-forth play continued throughout the next several serves, with Meg Schmidt getting a kill and Angela Young getting a service ace to put SMSU up 13-11 before the Mustangs closed the frame on a 12-4 run to take Set 1, 25-15.

SMSU maintained its strong run to start Set 2, scoring the first six points before later pushing its lead to 11-4. The Mustangs controlled the pace the rest of the frame, as a pair of kills by Young made it 20-9 before SMSU captured Set 2, 25-15 and a 2-0 lead in the match.

Set 3 saw another solid start by SMSU, this time in the form of a 7-2 lead, but MSU Mankato battled back to draw to within four at 11-7. The Mustangs had an answer, though, going on a 6-2 run to build a 17-9 lead and later went up double digits at 22-12 before taking Set 3, 25-16 to earn the sweep.

Young led SMSU with 17 kills while Schmidt added 12 and Emma VanHeel added 10. Payton Hjerleid led in digs with 14 while Rachel Fink and Alisa Bengen each added nine and Sophie Johnson led in set assists with 17 while Bengen added 12 and Schmidt had 10. As a team, SMSU recorded a hitting percentage of .324 and limited the Mavericks to a percentage of just .067.

VanHeel said their key on the offensive end was their ability to create different shots and maintain their aggressiveness. Defensively, she added their serve-receive was tough all evening.

“I think we hit a lot of different shots and everyone was playing well and aggressive and had the urgency to win,” VanHeel said. “[Defensively,] we were just super scrappy and then our serve-receive was really good for us.”

Up next

SMSU (16-4 overall, 8-4 NSIC) will finish its homestand against No. 5 Concordia-St. Paul today at 2 p.m. Culhane said they will need to get out to a better start overall and knows it’s going to be another tough matchup.

“We need to get out to a better start just in how we were playing; it wasn’t so much the points, we need to pay more attention to what we need to accomplish,” Culhane said. “We’re going to play a good team in Concordia, but pretty much everybody in this stretch is difficult, so we need to be ready to play and battle for however long it takes.”

SMSU 3, MSU Mankato 0

MSU Mankato 15 15 16

SMSU 25 25 25

Kills: SMSU (Young 17; Schmidt 12; VanHeel 10).

Digs: SMSU (Hjerleid 14; Fink, Bengen 9; Young, Johnson 7).

Set Assists: SMSU (Johnson 17; Bengen 12; Schmidt 10).

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