NCAA VOLLEYBALL: Second-set run sparks No. 8 SMSU

MARSHALL – A second-set comeback was the inspiration as No. 8-ranked Southwest Minnesota State swept of the University of Mary 25-10, 25-21, 25-9 during a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference volleyball match Saturday at P.E. Gym.

Trailing 9-2 in Set 2, Mustangs head coach Terry Culhane, unhappy with his squad, had burned a pair of timeouts in an attempt to motivate SMSU’s players and give them a chance to rally. The first stoppage came with SMSU trailing 3-0 in the set.

When asked what he said to the Mustangs during the timeouts, Culhane said, “It’s probably not printable.”

Whatever he said, it worked.

When SMSU returned to the court, the Mustangs hit their way to a 16-6 run that produced an 18-15 lead before closing out a four-point set victory. During the scoring spree, six different Mustangs had kills – Claire Sames (two), McKell Anderson (two), Sarah Parker (two). Abbey Thissen, Whitney Burmeister, Emilee Gutzmer – while Gutzmer and Ellen Degler served aces.

“If we handle the ball and we keep our setter (Gutzmer) from having to run around the gym, we are going to get better swings and our hitters will hit better,” Culhane said.

Gutzmer knows consistency was the key to getting the Mustangs out of their second-set problems.

“We broke down in a lot of areas that we usually don’t have trouble with and we couldn’t get out of that funk,” Gutzmer said. “We have been struggling with being consistent. On Friday, in the second set against Minot State, we battled with the same issues and, now, it happened again against Mary. We just have to work through it.”

Gutzmer said SMSU’s offense works a little differently in 2013.

“We have a more spread out offense this year,” Gutzmer said. “Abbey Thissen is a big part of our team, but I think it’s more beneficial to us to have an offense with a lot of hitters. It makes us harder to stop.”

Thissen led the Mustangs with 16 kills. But she was backed by nine kills from Sames, eight kills from Anderson and six more from Burmeister as SMSU outhit Mary 49-20.

Gutzmer recorded 41 of the Mustangs’ 46 set assists.

For Thissen, her .667 hitting percentage against Mary was a collegiate career high.

Culhane, who has preached consistency to the Mustangs in 2013, knows his squad has the ability to dominate opponents, but also struggles during letdowns.

“We have to take care of our own side of the net,” Culhane said. “We were counting on Mary to give us points, and they didn’t do that in the first few points of the second set. We have to avoid those holes because, sometimes, you can’t recover from them.”

Culhane said he burned both of SMSU’s second-set timeouts so quickly because he wanted to give the Mustangs a chance to rally.

“To me, it makes no sense to wait to use a timeout if your team is so far out of it that you can’t get back into the set,” Culhane said who moved into second place all-time among Mustang coaches with 255 wins after Friday’s victory over Minot State.

Win No. 256 came Saturday after SMSU dominated Set 3 behind Thissen, who posted seven kills in the final set.

SMSU (20-6 overall, 15-3 NSIC) hosts Augustana on Senior Night, which takes place at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the P.E. Gym.


At P.E. Gym

NO. 8 SMSU 3, MARY 0



SERVING (MADE-ATTEMPTED-ACES) – Mary 41-42-3 (Alicia Ewen 6-6-2, Alexis Jacobs 8-8-1, Alex Brown 9-9-0, Janell Finkbeiner 5-5-0, Paige Smith 4-4-0, Bri Pernsteiner 2-2-0, Clare Lulich 7-8-0); SMSU 68-73-8 (Emilee Gutzmer 12-12-2, Ellen Degler 12-13-2, Whitney Burmeister 19-20-2, Rachel Westby 8-11-1, Nico Schmidt 4-4-1, Claire Sames 7-7-0, McKell Anderson 4-4-0, Christa Wolf 2-2-0).

HITTING (MADE-ATTEMPTED-KILLS) – Mary 67-84-20 (Alexis Jacobs 22-26-7, Allison Adams 9-10-6, Morgan Drake 6-6-3, Lauren Boldt 12-16-2, Paige Smith 9-12-1, Rachel Astrup 2-4-1, Bri Pernsteiner 3-4-0, Ashley Koppinger 2-3-0, Janell Finkbeiner 1-1-0, Alex Brown 1-1-0, Alicia Ewen 0-1-0); SMSU 78-89-49 (Abbey Thissen 19-21-16, Claire Sames 18-22-9, McKell Anderson 13-16-8, Whitney Burmeister 10-11-6, Emilee Gutzmer 5-5-3, Sarah Parker 4-4-3, Nico Schmidt 4-5-3, Julia Walfoort 4-4-1, Ellen Degler 1-1-0).

DIGS – Mary 24 (Alexis Jacobs 6, Janell Finkbeiner 5, Clare Lulich 3, Alex Brown 3, Alicia Ewen 3, Lauren Bolt 2, Rachel Astrup 1, Bri Pernsteiner 1); SMSU 42 (Rachel Westby 13, Whitney Burmeister 8, Ellen Degler 8, McKell Anderson 6, Abbey Thissen 3, Emilee Gutzmer 2, Bailey Kirchhoff 2).

SETTING (MADE-ATTEMPTED-ASSISTS) – Mary 72-72-19 (Janell Finkbeiner 24-24-19, Alexis Jacobs 28-28-0, Alex Brown 8-8-0, Alicia Ewen 3-3-0, Allison Adams 2-2-0, Lauren Boldt 2-2-0, Rachel Astrup 1-1-0, Bri Pernsteiner 1-1-0); SMSU 77-78-46 (Emilee Gutzmer 41-42-41, Rachel Westby 17-17-2, Whitney Burmeister 11-11-2, Bailey Kirchhoff 2-2-1, McKell Anderson 5-5-0, Ellen Degler 1-1-0).

BLOCKS (SOLO-ASSISTED-TOTAL) – Mary 0-8-4.0 (Janell Finkbeiner 0-2-1.0, Paige Smith 0-2-1.0, Allison Adams 0-2-1.0, Alexis Jacobs 0-1-0.5, Rachel Astrup 0-1-0.5); SMSU 1-4-3.0 (Claire Sames 1-1-1.5, Abbey Thissen 0-1-0.5, Sarah Parker 0-1-0.5, McKell Anderson 0-1-0.5).