The University of Minnesota Morris volleyball team split a pair of matches on Saturday on Jim Gremmels Court, winning an important conference battle with Martin Luther College, 3-0 (25-21, 25-16, 25-16). In the final match of the day, the University of Wisconsin-Stout downed the Cougars in a non-conference match, 3-1 (25-23, 15-25, 22-25, 17-25).
The win over Martin Luther broke a tie between Minnesota Morris and the Knights, putting the Cougars alone in second place in the UMAC as the regular season winds down. The Cougars are now 13-12 (9-3 UMAC) on the season and will head out on the road on Friday with a 7 p.m. match at Northland College.
Minnesota Morris 3, Martin Luther 0
Martin Luther provided some resistance in the first set, but it was all Minnesota Morris after that as the Cougars swept their way into second place in the conference with a team hitting percentage of .288 in the first match on Saturday.
The final lead of the set for the Knights came at 6-5 before Minnesota Morris scored three in a row on a kill from Maggie Jones, an ace from Laura Wellbrock, and a MLC attack error. Another ace from Wellbrock later in the set swelled the lead to 20-13 in favor of the Cougars. The Knights were able to pull within two down the stretch, but Wellbrock had a pair of kills to end the first set, 25-21.
The second set opened with six straight points from Minnesota Morris as the Cougars led wire-to-wire. Jones and Lydia Nash were heavily involved in that opening sequence as they combined for four kills and a block. The closest Martin Luther could get in the second set was four points, closing to within 13-9. With the score 15-10, the Cougars had a seven-point burst to put the set away with Jones and Nash again at the forefront. An ace from McKenzie Newton gave Minnesota Morris a set point and Jones put it away two points later to finish it off.
Following a tie at 2-2, Minnesota Morris scored three straight points in the third set and never trailed. Nash and Jenna Howden had four kills in a five-point run for the Cougars to take a 5-4 lead up to 10-4. The Knights fought to within two, 16-14, but nine of the final 11 points went to UMN Morris, with Wellbrock finishing it off with the final two kills.
Nash ended with a match-high 15 kills and four block assists. Wellbrock had a double-double of 12 kills and 12 digs, along with a pair of aces. Jones finished with 10 kills and six block assists. Howden added nine kills in the match. Newton also had a double-double with 35 assists and 14 digs. Alyssa Ukestad finished with 10 assists and seven digs.
UW-Stout 3, Minnesota Morris 1
Following a 3-0 sweep for UW-Stout over Martin Luther in the middle match of the day, the Blue Devils finished off with a four-set victory over the Cougars thanks in large part to 18 kills from Jessica Barr.
The first set was closely contested, but Minnesota Morris pulled ahead with a four-point swing fueled by a pair of kills from Howden, making the score 15-9. In the late stages of the set, UW-Stout twice got within a point, but after a kill from Kennedy Geller gave the Cougars a set point, Wellbrock finished it off to put UMN Morris ahead in the match, 1-0.
Minnesota Morris hit at a .250 clip in the first set and actually upped that to .300 in the second set, but the UW-Stout offense got rolling and came back to easily claim the second set to knot the match at a set apiece. Things went back-and-forth between the two sides up to 11-11, when three straight points from the Blue Devils forced a timeout from the Cougars. Though Wellbrock earned a sideout for the Cougars with a kill, UW-Stout then scored eight in a row to take a 22-12 lead and finished things off to make it 1-1.
Early on in the third set, Minnesota Morris scored seven straight to turn a 6-4 deficit into an 11-6 lead. Howden had two kills and a block assist in that stretch for the Cougars. The lead for Minnesota Morris topped out at 17-10, but UW-Stout came back to level the score at 19-19. After three straight points for the Cougars made it 22-19, the Blue Devils reeled off six points in a row to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
Minnesota Morris held an early edge in the fourth set at 5-4 until UW-Stout scored six straight to go on top, 10-5. The Cougars would never get closer than four points the rest of the way as the Blue Devils stymied the UMN Morris attacking players. UW-Stout had 18 kills in the set compared to only eight for the Cougars as the Blue Devils closed it out.
Wellbrock finished the match with a team-high 10 kills along with 14 digs. Geller hit .333 as she collected eight kills, as did Howden with a .250 hitting percentage. Newton finished the match with 31 assists and 16 digs. Ukestad had 17 digs for the Cougars.