The Wildcats’ season concluded last Tuesday night as they were defeated in the first round of the NSIC Tournament by #3 seed Southwest Minnesota State in Marshall, Minnesota. The Wildcats finished with a 22-9 record overall on the season as the Mustangs advanced to the conference semifinals with a 22-7 record.
SMSU defeated the Wildcats by way of a 3-0 sweep (25-17, 28-26, 25-21). The first set was close early, as WSC grabbed their first lead of the set at 8-7. The ’Cats trailed 13-12 later in the set when the Mustangs reeled off seven straight points for a commanding 20-12 lead. The deficit proved too much for the Wildcats as they dropped the first set 25-17.
“They have who will be the three-time defending National Player of the Year on their side,” Kneifl said. “That makes a difference.”
The second set saw a back-and-forth battle as there were 13 ties and five lead changes. WSC gained a 9-8 advantage early in the set, but the Mustangs went on a 5-0 scoring run to take a 13-9 lead. The ’Cats responded with a 5-0 run of their own to regain the lead at 14-13. After the Wildcats gained a 20-19 lead, SMSU pulled off another 5-0 run to come within set point. WSC responded yet again with another 5-0 run to pull within a point of evening the match at one set apiece. However, with the score knotted at 26-26, SMSU took advantage of a Wildcat service error and proceeded to finish the set with a kill from Angela Young to win the second set 28-26.
The third set began with both teams exchanging points, as WSC’s last lead came at 10-9 following a kill from Beller. With the set tied at 13-13, SMSU managed to score six of the next seven points to gain a 19-14 lead. The Wildcats climbed back to within 19-18, but another late Mustang scoring run was too much for WSC, as SMSU closed out the match with a 25-21 third-set victory.
Wildcat volleyball will graduate two seniors, starting setter Megan Gebhardt and middle hitter Maria Wortmann
“I think it’s been a phenomenal year,” Kneifl said. “We had a much more difficult conference schedule. Last year, overall, we were 19-11 and this year we were 22-9. Obviously, there were a couple games we wish we could get back that could have made a difference in us making the NCAA Tournament. Obviously, we can’t do that, but I’ve been extremely pleased with how our team has played this year.”