NCAA VOLLEYBALL: Just enough offense

MARSHALL – The Southwest Minnesota State offense came alive when the Mustangs needed it most Saturday at P.E. Gymnasium.

Trailing 17-21 in Game 3, Whitney Burmeister sparked an 8-2 scoring run with three kills as SMSU swept Minnesota State-Moorhead 25-21, 25-12, 25-23 in a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference match.

“The effort was good, but we just had a hard time getting in-synch, offensively,” Mustangs head coach Terry Culhane said. “When that happens, a big part of that is what the opponent does and, it seemed, like we were fighting ourselves. We just need to work on being more consistent in what we do.”

Burmeister finished with 10 kills and seven digs and SMSU, ranked ninth in Division II, improved to 10-3 overall and 5-0 against the NSIC. Claire Sames and Abbey Thissen, who also added one kill apiece during the late scoring spree, ended up with 12 and 10 kills, respectively.

“Our defense did a great job of getting balls up in-system and we were able to get all three attackers going at once,” Burmeister said. “It’s easier when you’re in-system and the (opposing) blockers have to stick with you. I was able to get the ball past a one-on-one block because our middles and our outsides were getting in on it.”

Rachel Westby generated 31 digs for the Mustangs.

Culhane said Burmeister has been solid in the SMSU attack of late.

“She has been consistent in our last three matches, but struggled early in the (Saturday) because she was blocked a lot early-on,” Culhane said. “I thought she hit smarter and took better swings. Obviously, late in the match, we needed that.”

Throughout the match, Sames said she saw some openings in the MSUM defense.

“Moorhead’s defense was committing to our right side. So, I would, typically, have a hole on the left. I just needed to hit it there,” said Sames, who also contributed five block assists.

Culhane described Sames, who ended with a .429 hitting percentage, as an efficient hitter. Thissen added a .364 hitting percentage as the Mustangs outhit the Dragons .206 to .095.

Emilee Gutzmer contributed 40 set assists to the SMSU offense.

MSUM fell to 19-3 overall and 3-2 in league matches.

In Game 1, MSU-Moorhead took an early 3-0 lead until the Mustangs rallied for a 16-15 edge on a kill from Burmeister. SMSU went ahead 20-17 on a combined block from Jessica Theleman and McKell Anderson. Kills by Burmesiter and Thissen sealed the set victory as the Mustangs scored five of the final nine points.

In Game 2, SMSU produced the final seven points for a 13-point set win. Anderson had two kills during that span, while Burmeister and Sames each added a kill toward the end.

The Dragons (19-3, 3-2 NSIC) did much of its attacking in Game 3, when MSUM had 14 of its 31 kills. Maggie Gruber (nine kills) and Annie Palmquist (eight kills) had two kills apiece, helping the Dragons take a 21-17 lead before the Mustangs made their comeback.

No. 9 Southwest Minnesota State 3, Minnesota State-Moorhead 0

MSU-Moorhead21 12 23

Southwest Minnesota State25 25 25

SERVICE ACES – MSUM 2 (Katie Myers, Casie Baer); SMSU 3 (Ellen Degler 2, Rachel Westby).

KILLS – MSUM 31 (Maggie Gruber 9, Annie Palmquist 8, Morgan Gradishar 5, Abby Wolpern 4, Kaitlin VanWinkle 4, Brianna Atkins 1); SMSU (Claire Sames 13, Whitney Burmeister 10, Abbey Thissen 10, Jessica Thelemann 5, McKell Anderson 5, Emilee Gutzmer 2, Nico Schmidt 1, Sarah Parker 1).

BLOCKS (SOLO-ASSIST) – MSUM 2-18 (Kaitlin VanWinkle 1-6, Abby Wolpern 0-5, Maggie Gruber 1-3, Annie Palmquist 0-2, Brianna Atkins 0-2); SMSU 1-12 (Claire Sames 1-5, Emilee Gutzmer 0-4, Whitney Burmeister 0-1, Jessica Thelemann 0-1, McKell Anderson 0-1).

DIGS – MSUM 47 (Katie Meyers 12, Amber Krenske 10, Casie Baer 8, Morgan Gradishar 7, Sam Sullivan 5, Maggie Gruber 2, Annie Palmquist 2, Brianna Atkins 1); SMSU 55 (Rachel Westby 31, Whitney Burmeister 7, Ellen Degler 5, McKell Anderson 4, Nico Schmidt 3, Abbey Thissen 2, Emilee Guntzler 2, Jessica Thelemann 1).

SET ASSISTS – MSUM 28 (Sam Sullivan 14, Casie Baer 14); SMSU 43 (Emilee Guntzler 40, Rachel Westby 2, Ellen Degler 1).