In a battle between two of the top three Division II volleyball teams in the nation, the five-time defending national champion Concordia-St. Paul Golden Bears handed No. 2 Southwest Minnesota State its first loss of the season in a 3-0 sweep Friday in St. Paul. The Golden Bears won the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference opener 25-19, 25-20, 28-26.
Concordia-St. Paul finished the match with a .385 attack percentage, while SMSU was held to a .118 attack percentage and had 20 attack errors.
"That's what makes them so good is that they're so efficient offensively," SMSU head coach Terry Culhane said. "Unfortunately for us, that's one of the things we were not. They got too many good swings on balls and we just made too many errors and didn't handle the ball very well."
The third-ranked Golden Bears improved to 7-1 overall and 1-0 in NSIC play, while SMSU fell to 7-1 overall and 0-1 in conference action.
Concordia-St. Paul's Kayla Koenecke and Ellie Duffy each finished with 16 kills on the night, and Cassie Haag added 10.
SMSU's attack was led by Devin Diedrich, who had 13 kills. Brooke Burmeister tallied 12 kills, and freshman Abbey Thissen had 10.
The Mustangs had been getting strong contributions from a number of young players during their first seven matches. Culhane thought the freshmen, and even the upperclassmen, may have been a bit overwhelmed by the situation on Friday.
"I think our young kids got caught up in it, and I'm not surprised," Culhane said. "To be honest, our experienced kids didn't respond that well either.
"If we're counting on freshmen to get it done against someone like Concordia, that's just asking too much from them. We didn't really have anybody step up and respond when the going got tough."
SMSU junior Rachel Westby has a team-high 10 digs in the match, and freshman Emilee Gutzmer had 38 set assists.
The Mustangs play another top team today at 4 p.m. when they take on No. 11 Minnesota State-Mankato in Mankato.
"I wasn't happy at all with how we responded tonight," Culhane said. "Going to Mankato and trying to win isn't going to be much easier. We've got to respond, and to be honest, we just have to play better. How we react in this situation is going to be a big thing."
SMSU19 20 26
CSP25 25 28
Ace Serves: SMSU-McKell Anderson 1, Christa Wolf 1; CSP-Ellie Duffy 1, Erienne Lauersdorf 1.
Kills: SMSU-Devin Diedrich 13, Brooke Burmeister 12, Abbey Thissen 10, Mary Groth 7, Anderson 4, Emilee Gutzmer 1; CSP- Kayla Koenecke 16, Duffy 16, Cassie Haag 10.
Digs: SMSU-Rachel Westby 10, Anderson 8, Burmeister 6; Kara Pioske 13, Duffy 9, Lisa Atkinson 8.
Set Assists: SMSU-Gutzmer 38; CSP-Amanda Konetchy 47.
Blocks (solo-assists): Diedrich 1-4, Anderson 0-2, Gutzmer 0-2; CSP-Koenecke 1-2, Katie Habeck 0-4.