With five players reaching double figures in kills, the second-ranked Southwest Minnesota State volleyball team proved too much for a defensive-minded Minnesota State-Moorhead squad in a 25-15, 25-21, 29-31, 25-20 victory for the Mustangs Saturday in Moorhead.
Devin Diedrich had 20 kills in the match to lead SMSU's attack. Mary Groth and McKell Anderson each had 11 kills, while Brooke Burmeister and Abbey Thissen each tallied 10. Emilee Gutzmer finished with 57 set assists for the team.
SMSU head coach Terry Culhane, whose squad had a .197 hitting percentage for the match, said his hitters had to earn every one of their kills.
"It took a lot of swings to get those kills. Moorhead did a great job of defending," Culhane said. "It was not easy to score on them.
"We knew going in that it was going to be a difficult match and we felt good about getting out of there with a win."
The Mustangs sit at 14-1 overall and 6-1 in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference following the victory. The Dragons dropped to 10-6 overall and 2-5 in conference play.
Katy Ness anchored the Dragons' stout defensive effort with a match-high 39 digs. SMSU libero Rachel Westby led the Mustangs with 25 digs.
"She was amazing," Culhane said of Ness. "That was one of the best defending teams that we've played. She just didn't let anything hit the floor and that got to be contagious.
"I thought we played hard defensively, but they kept a lot of balls alive and it was a hard-fought battle."
Diedrich not only led the Mustangs in kills, but also in their defense at the net. She finished the match with four of SMSU's five solo blocks and four of the team's 14 block assists.
"Granted, she was good offensively, but Devin had some huge blocks for us at key times," Culhane said. "People always identify with the number of kills, but I thought she did a great job of blocking and coming up with some key 1-on-1 blocks that got some big points for us."
The Mustangs head into homecoming weekend with a seven-match winning streak. They will put it on the line Friday against Upper Iowa and Saturday against Winona State.
SMSU25 25 29 25
MSUM17 21 31 20
Ace Serves: SMSU-Whitney Burmeister 2, Rachel Westby, Emilee Gutzmer, Brooke Burmeister, Devin Diedrich, McKell Anderson; MSUM-None.
Kills: SMSU-Diedrich 20, Mary Groth 11, Anderson 11, B. Burmeister 10, Abbey Thissen 10; MSUM-Annie Palmquist 20, Meredith Egeland 12.
Digs: SMSU-Westby 25, W. Burmeister 12, Kelsey Hennen 10, Anderson 8; MSUM-Katy Ness 39, Amber Krenske 11, Casie Baer 8.
Set Assists: SMSU-Gutzmer 57; MSUM-Anna Olson 39, Sam Sullivan 14.
Blocks (solo-assists): SMSU-Diedrich 4-4, Thissen 0-3, Groth 0-3, Anderson 1-2; MSUM-Kaitlin VanWinkle 2-5, Egeland 0-3, Heidi Lensing 0-3, Palmquist 1-2.