NCAA VOLLEYBALL: Mustangs sweep MISU behind Sames, Thissen

MARSHALL – Claire Sames denied Minot State’s last three attack attempts to lead Southwest Minnesota State to a four-point rally in Set 3 to seal a 25-14, 25-20, 25-20 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference win Friday at P.E. Gym.

Sames, SMSU’s leading blocker, finished the match with six block assists and one solo denial. She has 62 block assists and 17 solos this season.

This win was the second for the Mustangs against the Beavers in 2013.

Abbey Thissen led SMSU (19-6, 14-3 NSIC), offensively, tallying a match-high 15 kills on 27 attempts (.370). Whitney Burmeister chipped in with 11 kills on 28 attacks.

“I thought we had stretches where we played some really good volleyball,” Southwest Minnesota State head coach Terry Culhane said. “We just need to work on our consistency because we give away too many unforced errors. It’s something that we have to clean up no matter who we are playing.”

It was all Mustangs in Set 1 as SMSU cruised to a 25-14 victory.

The Beavers hung tough early, but would succumb to a 7-2 Mustang rally that pushed the score to 18-9. SMSU turned to its service game late as Burmeister rattled off three straight aces to make it a 23-14 advantage.

Burmeister finished the match with just those three aces. Emilee Gutzmer put the lid on things as she connected on one of her four kills in the match to end the first set in favor of the Mustangs.

The Mustangs jumped ahead 10-4 lead in Set 2 thanks to a pair of kills from Thissen and Burmeister. SMSU grew its lead to 19-13 with another Burmeister kill, but would face a Beaver comeback.

MISU scored seven of the next ten points to shrink the Mustang lead down to 22-20. Culhane called his second timeout of the set to slow the momentum and it worked.

Back to the court, SMSU turned to its heavy hitter, Thissen, who slammed three straight kills to lift SMSU to a 25-20 set victory heading into the break.

SMSU built another comfortable lead in Set 3 as Thissen pushed the score to 11-5 with another kill. Two straight Beaver attack errors prompted third-year head coach Travis Ward to take his first timeout with the score set in favor of SMSU, 17-11.

From there, the Beavers put together a late 8-3 surge to tie the set at 20, capped by a Jen Dixon’s service ace. The MISU surge ended promptly at the hands of Sames, who got her hand in the last three Beaver attacks, blocking all of them to give SMSU the set and match. But we finished very well and that is some positive energy for us.”

“Claire did a nice job against the Minot State hitters because she was reading where they were going to attack,” Culhane said. “We were at a point were the game could have went either way

With the loss, the Beavers dropped to 12-15 overall, 7-10 in the NSIC, but still remain in the hunt for a berth into the NSIC Conference Tournament.

SMSU’s alumni weekend continues today with a match versus the University of Mary. First serve is set for 3 p.m.