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Weekend volleyball wins move Cougars to .500

The University of Minnesota, Morris volleyball team won both home matches over the weekend, defeating St. Scholastica and Northland College.

The wins improve the Cougars to .500 on the year at 13-13 (a remarkable 9-1 at home) and 7-4 in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference, one step closer to the post-season tournament. A win Tuesday night at home against Presentation would secure the spot with one road trip to follow this weekend.

UM-Morris 3

St. Scholastica 0

Friday night at the P.E. Center, the Cougars avenged an earlier loss to the Saints 25-13, 25-23, 25-10.

When head coach Chad Braegelmann wonders how much his team has progressed in 2009, he'll look back to the second set of this match when the Cougars fell behind Scholastica 20-16.

UMM rallied to tie the game at 21. Then in the huddle on a Scholastica time out Braegelmann said the attitude changed.

"We've been there so many times before, I think they said 'enough.' Let's take care of business."

And they did.

The Saints surged ahead 23-21 before the Cougars buckled down and ran off four straight points. Junior Jordan Olerud served the last three points of the game to close it out.

Dropping the second set seemed to fatigue the Saints, who hit for a negative percentage in the third set when the Cougars again jumped out to a big 13-4 lead and never looked back.

The Cougars, meanwhile, executed exceptionally well all night, hitting .349 for the match when .200 will usually suffice for a win. They were led on the front line by senior Malinda Prisinger and first-year player Allie Humphrey, who recorded 10 kills a piece. Olerud had nine and first-year player Stephanie Schmiesing added eight.

Sophomore Natalie Thomas had 35 assists, leading the team, while Brita Humphrey and Thomas each had 10 digs.

UM-Morris 3

Northland 1

For the second time in two days the Cougar volleyball team returned the favor on a team that had beaten them earlier this season. At the PE Center Saturday, the visiting Lumberjills of Northland College fell in four sets (19-25, 25-9, 25-19, 25-12).

The win capped a weekend for the Cougars that not only secured two wins and moved them closer to a play-off birth, but also marked the emergence of a more clutch and finely executing team. Whereas UMM had struggled to win tough points and attack with consistency earlier in the year, they did both of these things very well against Northland, and on Friday night against St. Scholastica.

By and large, the Cougars kept the Lumberjills off balance much of the game with their serving.

After dropping the first set 25-19, the Cougars bolted out in the second. Four service aces from Thomas sparked a 10-0 run from which Northland never recovered. Thomas' serves--and later serves from sophomore Jen Bissel and Allie Humphrey--seemed to upset the Lumberjills as they struggled to set returns and attacks.

The teams exchanged rally points in the third set until the 12-point mark when Thomas came on serve again. Another service ace from Thomas, two Northland errors, and kills from Olerud and Humphrey gave the Cougars a five-point cushion that they maintained for the rest of the game.

Humphrey came on serve in the fourth set with the Cougars trailing 11-10. When she finished her run, the Cougars suddenly led 19-11. The nine-point run was highlighted by two more kills from Olerud (who finished the game with a team and season-high 16) and three from junior Megan Theis. Thomas served out the set and match, picking up another service ace (for a team-high seven), as the Cougars prevailed 25-12.

In addition to her 16 kills, Olerud had 14 digs for the match, along with 14 from first-year player Brita Humphrey playing libero.