Though sporting a losing record, the Minnesota-Crookston volleyball team gave the second-ranked Southwest Minnesota State Mustangs a difficult battle in Saturday's Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference matchup in Crookston.
The Golden Eagles bounced back from a first-set loss to steal a tight second set, but the Mustangs ultimately prevailed in a 25-19, 23-25, 25-14, 25-17 victory to extend their winning streak to 11 matches.
"They played really freewheeling," SMSU head coach Terry Culhane said of UMC. "They do some different things with their attack that we knew would be tough for us to deal with because we don't see it a lot. When they handle the ball well, they really play at a quick tempo."
McKell Anderson led the Mustangs (18-1 overall, 10-1 NSIC) with 16 kills for the match. She also had 14 digs and two ace serves.
Culhane said Anderson's strong match wasn't necessarily by design.
"McKell got set a lot because Crookston served tough and we didn't pass as well as we usually do," he said. "She got more swings than she normally does and she really stepped up in Games 3 and 4 and got some better swings in.
"That's the strength of our team. Their coach said, 'We can slow one of [SMSU's hitters] down, but we can't slow all of them.'"
Brooke Burmeister added 15 kills for the Mustangs, while Devin Diedrich tallied 11, and Mary Groth and Abbey Thissen each had nine. Emilee Gutzmer finished with 53 set assists to go along with her team-high 22 digs.
Culhane said that the scores in the final two sets weren't indicative of how close they really were. He said the Golden Eagles (8-10, 4-7), who lead the NSIC in digs, really scrambled defensively and made the Mustangs work hard for their points. Although he thought his team could have executed better, especially in the second set, Culhane said he felt his players worked hard and did well to bounce back from dropping a set.
The Mustangs will conclude a string of three road matches Tuesday when they head to Sioux Falls, S.D., to play the University of Sioux Falls.
SMSU25 23 25 25
UMC19 25 14 17
Ace Serves: SMSU-McKell Anderson 2, Brooke Burmeister 2, Devin Diedrich, Emilee Gutzmer; UMC-Alexandra Skeeter 2, Amanda Swann 2, Brittany Looker.
Kills: SMSU-Anderson 16, B. Burmeister 15, Diedrich 11, Mary Groth 9, Abbey Thissen 9; UMC-Looker 12, Skeeter 7, Morgan VanGerpen 5.
Digs: SMSU-Gutzmer 22, Rachel Westby 18, Anderson 14, Whitney Burmeister 10, Kelsey Hennen 8; UMC-Chelsea Wiesner 24, Skeeter 12, Looker 8.
Set Assists: SMSU-Gutzmer 53; UMC-Paige Mitchell 15, Lindsey Rees 14.
Blocks (solo-assists): SMSU-Diedrich 2-3, Anderson 1-1; UMC-VanGerpen 0-6, Swann 0-5.