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Cougars go 2-2 at Blazer Volleyball Invite

The University of Minnesota, Morris volleyball team was 2-2 at the Blazer Invitational Friday and Saturday.

Morris opened the invite with a 3-0 sweep over Simpson, winning by set scores of 25-20, 25-18, and 25-19. Then in their second match Morris pulled out a win over was St. Scholastica in five sets.

The Cougars dropped the first set, and found themselves down two sets to one after the third. But they answered with a seven-point win in the fourth set before taking the match in the fifth (23-25, 25-21, 18-25, 25-18, 15-7).

The win over CSS is the first since late October in the 2009 season, as the Cougars dropped three matches to the Saints last season.

The Cougars then dropped each of their games at the Blazer invitational Saturday, falling in five sets to Simpson, 3-2, and closing the day with a 3-1 loss to St. Benedict.  

The five-set loss to Simpson (25-23, 15-25, 20-25, 25-13, 15-13) comes just a day after the Cougars swept the Storm to open their stay at the weekend's Blazer Invitational. Then with the loss to host St. Ben's (25-20, 16-25, 25-14, 25-23), Morris became the fourth victim to the Blazers, as the tournament hosts went unbeaten on the weekend.

The Cougars dropped a close first set to the Storm - falling by just two points - but came back in a big way to score a 10-point win in the second, hitting a blazing .538 along the way. A 25-20 win in the third set had Morris in position for a win. They struggled at the net in the fourth, however, hitting just .031.

Simpson capitalized in the fifth, hitting .429 with nine kills among their 15 points, against no errors. The loss snapped the Cougars' seven match winning streak, and handed them their first loss since the season opener. It was also the first time the Cougars had lost a fifth set in eight tries, a streak that extended to 2009.

A worn down Morris squad then matched up with St. Ben's in the Blazer Invite finale, a team that ripped through their first three matches unbeaten Despite sitting tied 1-1 after the first two sets, they dropped the next two to finish the weekend  2-2.

After possibly their best set of the weekend, where the Cougars amassed 16 kills with just two errors while hitting .636, they came back with one of the worst, hitting -.133 while committing 10 errors.

Three different players finished with 20 or more kills on the day, with Kaylie Clark and Emily Auch leading the way with 27. Auch did her damage on just 62 attempts, and swung for a team high .339 average while making just six errors.

Natalie Thomas continued her red hot start to her senior season, racking up 91 assists in the two matches, adding 14 digs, eight kills, and a pair of serve aces.

Thomas dished out 48 assists in the Simpson match, just two off her career high of 50, set last October. She now has 333 on the young season, which leaves her just 88 shy of 2,000 in her stellar career.

The Cougars will have to recoup quick, as they return to action on Sept. 20 in St. Paul, taking on their third MIAC opponent of the season in Macalester.

Another few days off, and then the UMAC season opens on Sept. 24 with a rematch with preseason favorite and defending champion St. Scholastica at 7 p.m. Morris then finishes off the weekend at Northland on Sept. 25, with the first serve scheduled for 1 p.m.

Despite the two losses, the Cougars still sit at 7-3 on the year, their best start in the Braegelman era, and one of the best in program history.