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Cougars open conference volleyball schedule

The University of Minnesota, Morris volleyball team went 3-2 in volleyball action last week.

Waldorf 3

UM-Morris 1

In the first of two matches at North Central University in Minneapolis, the Cougar volleyball team faced NAIA foe Waldorf College.

The Cougars struggled out of the gate in the first set, falling behind by several points. They rallied late, coming within a few points, but the effort left them out of gas and the Warriors took the set 27-25.

"We're still struggling with playing hard right at the start of a game. That first set was an example. We just didn't have enough to come all the way back," said head coach Chad Braegelmann.

The Cougars took the second set 25-23. They never trailed.

Waldorf came back in sets three and four. According to Braegelmann, the Cougars had trouble finding rhythm in those sets. He attributed that to Waldorf's play.

"We didn't play worse in [sets] three and four. Waldorf's defense improved each set," he said.

Overall, Braegelmann was pleased with his team's serving during the Waldorf match.

"They mixed up pace on serves, they aimed for corners, and they split gaps in the Waldorf formations. It worked for us against them."

UM-Morris 3

North Central 0

In the second match, the Cougars swept hosts North Central. The easy win enabled Braegelmann to use his entire bench and rest some starters.

"We had more depth and our attacks were better. Overall, we played really well," he said.

The Cougars were led on offense by Justine Banken who recorded a season-high 12 kills with only one error on 17 attacks.

Northwestern 3

M-Morris 0

The Cougars dropped a very competitive Upper Midwest Athletic Conference opener to Northwestern College in three sets (25-23, 25-23, 25-22).

The loss dropped UMM to 5-10 on the year, while Northwestern, the reigning UMAC champ, improved to 6-9.

The first set swung back and forth without either team able to string points together on serve. Trailing 23-20, the Cougars surged back courtesy of two straight Northwestern attack errors. Megan Theis knotted the game one point later with one of her nine kills on the night. Consecutive UMM setting and attack errors handed the set back to the Eagles, 25-23.

The second set appeared very much like the first with neither team able to open a margin greater than three points. Finding themselves tied again at 20, Northwestern opened a 24-20 lead. The Cougars closed that gap to one after two Eagle errors and a service ace from Natalie Thomas, but could get no closer.

Starting the third set, the Eagles rushed out to a 15-6 lead and it looked as if the third set would be quick and painful. But after Braegelmann called a timeout, his team rallied behind long service runs from Jordan Olerud and Allie Humphrey to tie the game at 22. Again, the rally seemed to exhaust the Cougars' energy as Northwestern took the final three points of the set for a 3-0 match win.

In the end, it was the short stretches that cost the Cougars the match.

"Just little intervals that we gave them. Missed serves, a couple hitting errors, and a couple good plays on their part. That gives them the game," captain Colleen Hermes said afterwards.

At the net UMM was led by Theis, Olerud (five kills), and Stephanie Schmiesing (five kills). Defensively, the Cougars came up with six blocks during the match. Olerud and Lindsay Jacobson recorded game highs in digs with 12 and seven, respectively.

UM-Morris 3

Crown College 0

In the first match of a twin bill, the Cougars swept conference rival Crown College 3-0 at the PE Center in Morris.

UMM jumped out to an early 15-6 lead on the Purple Storm behind long serving runs by Olerud and Sam Pfannenstein. Crown cut the lead to six at 19-13, but could get no closer. Pfannenstein closed the set with a service ace.

In the second set, UMM and Crown exchanged rally points until the 11-8 mark when sophomore Natalie Thomas led a nine-points service run, extending the Cougars' lead to 20-8. UMM closed the set at 25-14.

In the third set, first-year player Schmiesing recorded three kills during a 25-17 win.

The win brings UMM to 1-1 in conference play.

At the net, Schmiesing, Theis, and Humphrey led the team in kills for the match with eight, eight and nine respectively. Thomas recorded 24 assists while defensively, Olerud (16), captain Colleen Hermes (10) and junior Lindsay Jacobson (12) led the team in digs.

UM-Morris 3

Trinity Bible 0

In the second match of the day, the Cougars routed visiting Trinity Bible College: 25-4, 25-13, and 25-9. The Lions played with just six players.

In the match, the Cougars had four players with at least six kills: Thomas, Olerud, Theis and Humphrey. Pfannnenstein and Olerud posted remarkable service games with 12 and seven aces respectively.

The win improves UMM's record to 7-10 on the year.

This weekend the Cougars host Bethany Lutheran and the College of St. Scholastica.