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Long road trip a disappointment for Cougars

The University of Minnesota, Morris volleyball team suffered two road losses to St. Scholastica and Northland College.

St. Scholastica 3

UM-Morris 2

In Duluth on Thursday night, the Cougar volleyball team dropped a tough conference match to the College of St. Scholastica in five sets: 25-18, 25-20, 16-25, 23-25, 13-15.

The Cougars took the first two sets handily before Scholastica changed to a 5-1 formation, which seemed to work better for their play.

"When they did that, it's not like we started playing worse. They just gained some confidence and played better," said head coach Chad Braegelmann.

The fourth set was literal nip and tuck as neither team opened a lead larger than two points. At 24-22, first-year Cougar Justine Banken killed a points to draw within one, but the Saints closed out the set on the next serve.

The fifth set was more of the same. The Cougars and Saints exchanged rally points into the teens. The Saints pulled ahead on a couple of balls that fell between Cougar players, negating their ability to form a strong return. The Saints closed out at 15-13.

"For the match, they scored only one more point than us. It was as evenly matched as it gets. We'll get to play them again," said Braegelmann.

Offensively, the Cougars had five hitters in double-digits on the night, pleasing Braegelmann.

"I don't think that's happened before in my time here," he said.

Leading the Cougars in kills were Allie Humphrey and Justine Banken with 14 apiece, Stephanie Schmiesing with 13, and Jordan Olerud with 11.

Natalie Thomas led with 33 assists, while Sam Pfannenstein recorded 24.

Three Cougars were in double figures in the digs column. Olerud led with 21, Lindsay Jacobson recorded 18, and Colleen Hermes added 14.

Northland 3

UM-Morris 0

The Cougar volleyball team rounded out its longest road trip of the season (6.5 hours one way) with a frustrating 3-0 loss to Northland College in Ashland, Wisc. Friday.

The Cougars' typically strong front line finished the match with a negative attack percentage on offense (-.043).

"We just didn't play our best ball tonight," said Braegelmann. "To end this road trip this way is disappointing."

In the first set, Northland jumped out to an early 12-5 lead. The Cougars rallied to cut the lead to four at 22-18, but expended a great deal of energy in the process, and lost the last three points to close the set.

The Cougars overcame an early four-point deficit to take a late lead in the second set, 19-17. But the Lumberjills rallied again and took the set in extra points, 27-25.

Megan Theis and Allie Humphrey led the Cougars with five kills apiece.

Thomas recorded nine assists, while Pfannenstein had eight.

Jacobson led the Cougars with 17 digs, while Hermes added 12.

Despite the weekend, the Cougars are still well-positioned for post-season UMAC play. They are tied for fourth in the conference with a 3-3 record (9-12 overall).

"We're sore and beat up. It will be good to have a couple days to rest this week," said Braegelmann.

UMM will rest until Tuesday when they travel to Presentation for a midweek game. This weekend they journey to the Cities for road games against Northwestern and Crown College.