The second-ranked Southwest Minnesota State volleyball team got SMSU's homecoming weekend off to a rousing start with a dominant 25-17, 25-13, 25-17 sweep of Upper Iowa Friday night at the PE Gym on the campus of SMSU.
A crowd of 786 looked on as the Mustangs took charge from the start. They had a .514 hitting percentage in the first set and finished with a .441 hitting percentage for the match. They also avoided getting blocked a single time in the match and finished with just 10 hitting errors.
"I thought we did a nice job of putting pressure on them and our kids passed the ball well," SMSU head coach Terry Culhane said. "That allowed us to move the ball around. Then, I think we defended better as the night went on, which is always a good thing to see."
SMSU's eighth-straight win moves the team to 7-1 in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference competition and 15-1 overall. The Peacocks fall to 4-4 in NSIC play and 10-7 overall.
SMSU freshman Emilee Gutzmer had 50 set assists for the Mustangs, who had three players reach double digits in kills. Devin Diedrich kept up her strong play this season with a team-high 14 kills. Freshman Abbey Thissen added 12 kills, and senior Mary Groth smashed 11 kills to go with a solo ace block and a block assist.
Rachel Westby led the defensive effort for SMSU with 12 digs, while McKell Anderson, Brooke Burmeister and Gutzmer each had seven digs. Anderson also tallied eight kills in the win.
Upper Iowa got 10 kills from Melanie Behnke, but was limited to a .133 hitting percentage for the match.
SMSU moves on to face a red-hot Winona State team today at 3 p.m. in the PE Gym. The Warriors improved to 8-0 in NSIC play following a 3-1 victory over Sioux Falls Friday night.
WSU has sole possession of first place in the conference, and the Mustangs are looking to bring the Warriors back to the pack.
"Clearly they're having a good start to the season," Culhane said. "They went on the road to win at Wayne and Augie early on, so they're a really good team and leading our conference. For us to have a shot at the whole thing we need to be able to take advantage of this opportunity."
Culhane expects a strong homecoming crowd to help urge the Mustangs on, something he knows his players appreciate.
"Our kids really get excited playing at home," he said. "I'm confident our seniors will have us ready to go. We'll be playing a good team and we'll need to put pressure on them."
UIU17 13 17
SMSU25 25 25
Ace Serves: UIU-Amanda Weiss; SMSU-Brooke Burmeister 2, Emilee Gutzmer 2, Whitney Burmeister 2, Devin Diedrich.
Kills: UIU-Melanie Behnke 10, Jennifer Mundt 6; SMSU-Diedrich 14, Abbey Thissen 12, Mary Groth 11, McKell Anderson 8.
Digs: UIU-Weiss 10, Danielle Gernes 6; SMSU-Rachel Westby 12, Anderson 7, B. Burmeister 7, Gutzmer 7.
Set Assists: UIU-Skylar Lesan 16; SMSU-Gutzmer 50.
Blocks (solo-assists): UIU-None; SMSU-Groth 1-1, Diedrich 0-1, B. Burmeister 0-1, Thissen 0-1.