Rice Auditorium, home of the Wayne State Wildcats, has been a house of horrors for the Southwest Minnesota State volleyball team.
Prior to Thursday night's Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference game, the Mustangs hadn't won in Wayne since 2008. Throw 42 attack errors on top of their struggles on the Wildcats' home floor, and the top-ranked Mustangs looked ripe for an upset.
It wasn't to be, however, as SMSU held on for a 27-25, 25-22, 16-25, 26-24 victory over the No. 16 Wildcats, winning for just its second time since 2003 at Rice Auditorium.
"I thought there were times in the match where we were in control of what was going on, but then we would self-destruct or just let them back into the match," SMSU head coach Terry Culhane said. "And that's something that we've just got to continue to work on. We just need more consistency."
SMSU hit just .097 for the match, with the low-water mark coming during the third set when the Mustangs hit -.154 with 16 errors. Adding to the degree of difficulty for SMSU was a superb blocking night for the Wildcats. Wayne State had 16 total blocks as a team, lead by Lexi Malm's 4 1/2 total blocks (nine assists).
"We got blocked a lot, and obviously in Game 3, that was just a disaster," Culhane said. "We just couldn't find the court at all as hitters. But it's one of those where we'll take it: one, Wayne's a good team and, two, that's a hard place to play. It wasn't pretty, but there aren't many times that we've gone down there and won so we'll take that."
Senior Brooke Burmeister recorded her third consecutive double-double for the Mustangs with a team-high 17 kills and 20 digs. Fellow seniors Mary Groth and Devin Diedrich also reached double-digits in kills with 12 and 14, respectively.
Emilee Gutzmer also had a double-double for the Mustangs (24-1 overall, 16-1 NSIC) with 52 set assists and 11 digs. Rachel Westby had 20 digs for the Mustangs as she returned to the court after sitting out with a concussion.
The Wildcats (19-8, 11-6) were led on the attack by Cori Hobbs' 15 kills, while Katie Hughes had 14. Hobbs also had 16 digs, one behind Courtney VanGroningen for the team lead.
Westby, along with freshman Kelsey Hennen, helped keep the Mustang offense rolling with formidable passing on a night when SMSU could not afford less.
"As a team we passed well. I thought Rachel and Kelsey Hennen really passed well for us, they were really solid," Culhane said. "I thought all of our ball control kids were decent. Then I thought we defended harder as the game went on. We just have to take care of the ball better hitting-wise."
With the win over the Wildcats, SMSU returns home for three final regular season games at the P.E. Gym. The Mustangs first host Augustana (17-9, 11-6) on Saturday at 4 p.m., before playing host to Minnesota State-Mankato (17-8, 11-6) on Nov. 9 and Concordia-St. Paul (21-3, 15-2) the following day.
SMSU27 25 16 26
Wayne State25 22 25 24
Serving (aces): SMSU-Brooke Burmeister 2, McKell Anderson, Rachel Westby, Whitney Burmeister; W-Leisa McClintock, Katie Hughes.
Kills: SMSU-B. Burmeister 17, Devin Diedrich 14, Mary Groth 12, Abbey Thissen 8, Anderson 8; W-Cori Hobbs 15, Hughes 14.
Digs: SMSU-Westby 20, B. Burmeister 20, Anderson 13, Emilee Gutzmer 11; W-Courtney VanGroningen 17, Hobbs 16, Hughes 15, Tatum Wroblewski 12.
Set Assists: SMSU-Gutzmer 52.
Blocks (solo-assists): SMSU-Groth 1-5, Thissen 0-3, B. Burmeister 0-2, Gutzmer 0-1, Diedrich 0-1; W-Lexi Malm 0-9, Melanie Placke 2-3, Alex Armes 0-5, Hobbs 0-5, McClintock 0-3, Hughes 0-3.