Volleyball games end in close calls, scores

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Joseph Lovercheck, Staff Writer

The Wildcat Volleyball team went 1-1 during the opening week of NSIC play, winning a thriller at home and losing to top-ranked Southwest Minnesota State in Marshall, Minnesota.

The ’Cats started off the week with a five-set win on Thursday against the University of Sioux Falls Cougars at Rice Auditorium.

“We came out and we were very focused,” Head Coach Scott Kneifl said.

WSC started off conference play winning the first two sets of the night. The first set was close early. After breaking a 14-14 tie, the ’Cats got hot, scoring in a variety of ways to finish the set 25-19.

After nine ties and six lead changes in the second set, WSC took the lead for good at 21-19, with kill from Alyssa Ballenger and a USF error. The Wildcats completed the set with a couple of kills, winning 25-20.

“We got ahead and took an early two set to none lead,” Kneifl said. “Everything seemed to be looking good, but give Sioux Falls credit. They fought back hard and they have a really nice team.”

The Wildcats fell in the third as Sioux Falls had three aces and 13 kills in the 25-20 set win.

WSC lost the fourth set 25-20. During the fourth set the Cougars hit 18 kills with just two attack errors. Despite the Cougars’ red-hot hitting, the ’Cats managed to keep it close at 19-19 late in the set. Breaking the tie, Sioux Falls scored five unanswered and six of the final seven points of the set to take the fourth.

The fifth set was close the entire way, with WSC ultimately pulling out the victory, 15-12. Senior Erin Gross produced four kills in the final set for the Wildcats.

“I was really proud that our kids came back and fought hard in the fifth to get that win,” Kneifl said.

Katie Stephens paced the balanced WSC offense, recording 16 kills. Gross added 15 kills and six blocks, while Tarrin Beller had a double-double with 13 kills and 11 blocks.

The ’Cats were led by Megan Gebhardt in assists, 48, and Haley Kauth in digs, 21.

On Saturday the Wildcats headed to Minnesota to face off against the Southwest Minnesota State (SMSU) Mustangs. The ’Cats fell in this game three sets to one.

SMSU started the game well, allowing only six kills. The Mustangs won the set 25-16.

“Southwest Minnesota State is the best team in Division II right now,” Kneifl said. “They flexed their muscles on us. They served extremely aggressive. Everything they did was just one step faster than us.”

Wayne State had no answer for the SMSU offense in the second set. The Mustangs had 17 kills, posting a .484 attack percentage. The ’Cats fell in the second 25-13.

SMSU used good serving to finish out the match, scoring five aces in the third set. The ’Cats lost the final set, 25-15.

Gross led the Wildcats, earning six kills. Jaci Brahmer and Beller each had five kills to add.

The Wildcats played Tuesday against Augustana University in the 12th annual blackout game which was broadcast on News Channel Nebraska.

The ’Cats won the game in five sets. WSC won the first two, 25-19 and 25-22. Augustana won the next two 25-12 and 25-19.

The fifth set was a thriller all the way to the end. Ultimately, WSC came away with the victory, 15-11.

“We really want to be the best team that we can be, and continue to learn from each game we play,” Kneifl said. “Whether we win or we lose, we need to learn from how we play. We want to strive to be in the top half of the conference and make the conference tournament and then see what happens at the end.”