NCAA VOLLEYBALL: Mustangs top Upper Iowa

MARSHALL – For the sixth straight match, the No. 6-ranked Southwest Minnesota State University volleyball team swept an opponent, this time defeating Upper Iowa in straight sets (25-12, 25-13 and 25-17) on Saturday at P.E. Gym.

The victory was 10th year head coach Terry Culhane was his 250th career win (250-66).

The Mustangs improved to 14-3 overall and 9-0 in the NSIC with the win, while UI dropped to 6-12 overall and 2-7 in the NSIC. It was the 17th win for SMSU in a series that the Mustangs have never lost.

SMSU was led by performances from Claire Sames and Abbey Thissen as they each finished with 12 and 13 kills, respectively. The Mustangs’ offense was smooth and efficient as SMSU combined to hit .363 and owned a 81 percent sideout percentage

“We were efficient, offensively, and were always trying to work to get better at that. I think we’re improving in that area, but there is still plenty of work to do,” Culhane said. “We are not giving up many points right now, hitting-wise. But a lot of that is what your opponent is trying to make you do. As a team, I think we have been more consistent overall.”

Thissen said all of the Mustang hitters are becoming in-synch on the court.

“As hitters, it’s our responsibility to take care of the ball and we seem to be gelling as teammates right now,” Thissen said. “We need to see where (our opponents’) block is set up and hit the ball where they can’t touch it. We’re doing a good job of that right now.”

SMSU dominated the match as it surrendered the lead just one time, which came in Set 2.

“It was an opportunity for us to get players into the match that do not usually get in,” Culhane said. “With injuries and other stuff that could affect us, it’s always a possibility that we will need all of our players to be ready.”

Emilee Gutzmer was aggressive at the net, finishing with two kills on four attacks and she also paced the offense with 38 assists. Rachel Westby picked up 12 digs. Thissen had a career-high five service aces in the match, including back-to-back aces on two separate occasions.

Culhane said the flow of the match was inconsistent.

“Defensively, there were times when I thought we didn’t block very well and there were other times in the match when I thought we blocked very well,” Culhane said. “This was the kind of match that had no flow to it because we missed some serves and Upper Iowa missed some, too.”

The consecutive set wins extended SMSU’s consecutive set winning streak to 19. SMSU hasn’t lost a set since Sept. 14 at Sioux Falls.

SMSU will take a 10-match winning streak on the road next weekend when the Mustangs face Minnesota State on Friday and No. 1-ranked Concordia-St. Paul on Saturday.


Upper Iowa121317


SERVING ACES – UI 3 (Alisha VanderWoude 3); SMSU 8 (Abbey Thissen 5, Rachel Westby 2, Whitney Burmeister 1).

KILLS – UI 22 (Jennifer Mundt 15, Chelsea Berry 6, Racheael Behnke 1); SMSU 44 (Abbey Thissen 13, Claire Sames 12, McKell Anderson 6, Whitney Burmeister 5, Sarah Parker 4, Emilee Gutzmer 2, Jessica Thelemann 1, Nico Schmidt 1).

DIGS – UI 34 (Kelsey Hinrichs 8, Taylor Williams 7, Katie Chatten 6, Chelsea Berry 4, Jenna Hermsen 4, Rachael Behnke 2, Jennifer Mundt 1, Miranda LeJeune 1, Sydney Cyzon 1); SMSU 36 (Rachel Westby 12, Emilee Gutzmer 6, Whitney Burmeister 5, McKell Anderson 4, Ellen Degler 4, Claire Sames 2, Nico Schmidt 2 Christa Wolf 1).

ASSISTS – UI 22 (Jenna Hermsen 11, Katie Chatten 9, Rachael Behnke 1, Kelsey Hinrichs 1); SMSU 43 (Emilee Gutzmer 38, Rachel Westby 2, Whitney Burmeister 2, Abbey Thissen 1).

BLOCKS (SOLO-ASSISTED) – UI 9.0 (Trisha Hanson 0-6, Alisha VanderWoude 2-1, Miranda LeJuene 0-4, Jennifer Mundt 0-1, Rachael Westby 0-1, Chelsea Berry 0-1); SMSU 6.0 (Abbey Thissen 0-3, Claire Sames 1-1, Sarah Parker 0-2, Jessica Thelemann 0-2, McKell Anderson 0-1, Emilee Gutzmer 0-1).