The Minnesota State University volleyball team is set to start conference play this week. For their first opponent, they will be traveling to Winona State to take on the Warriors Thursday at 7 p.m. On Saturday, the Mavericks will have their home opener against Upper Iowa. First serve is set for 4:00 p.m.
The Mavericks finished their non-conference schedule with a 6-2 record. They come into conference play on a two-game winning streak with victories over Missouri Western and Missouri S&T at the Gold & Green Tournament.
As of September 14, Minnesota State is close to cracking the AVCA Coaches poll top-25 in which they have received 23 votes. Inter-conference foe Concordia-St. Paul is standing at the top of those rankings for the second week in a row, with 48 first-place votes.
Breaking out the stat sheet as a team, the Mavs are averaging 13.5 kills per set compared to their opponents’ 11.2. They are also ahead on average assists per set with 12.6 to 10.3. Defensively, the Mavericks have the advantage on digs per set with 16.5 to the opponents’ 14.8. The Mavs also have a formidable wall at the net as they have tallied up 54 blocks while their opponents just put up 31.
Last year, the Mavericks opened up conference play with a victory over Winona State. MSU won in a five set match at home. The Mavericks have a 15-3 all-time record against the Warriors with their most recent loss to them coming in 2014. They will need to bring their A-game this year, as they head to Winona to face a tough Warriors team. As of September 14, they boast a 9-0 record this season and are currently ranked 9th overall in the Coaches Poll.
Winona State is currently leading the Northern Sun Conference with 19.9 digs per set. They are second in the conference in both kills per set (15.1) and assists per set (14.2). They also have marked up 63 blocks and 49 aces so far this season. Everything being advantages over MSU.
The leaders of the Warriors consist of Senior Jamie Cairncross who currently averages 5.4 digs per set. She was just named NSIC Defensive Player of the Week. Junior Taylor Goar is another player to watch. She leads the Warriors in kills with 102. Junior McKenna Larsen leads Winona in assists with 290.
Later in the week, Minnesota State will kick off their home opener against Upper Iowa. The Peacocks from Fayette, Iowa post a record of 5-3. Like the Mavericks, Upper Iowa is entering this week with a two match win streak with victories over Northern Michigan and Lake Superior State.
The last time MNSU and Upper Iowa met was last year when the Mavericks won 3-2. Minnesota State has never lost to the Peacocks with the all-time series at 17-0. The first time these schools met up was in 1983 and have played every season since 2004.
Through their first eight games of the season, Upper Iowa is averaging 11.9 kills per set, 11 assists per set, and 14.5 digs per set. Advantage goes to the Mavericks on each of those stats. The Peacocks are led by Senior Alisha VanderWoude who has piled up a team best 91 kills. Another player to watch out for is Freshman Anna Winter who has posted 57 kills this season. Junior Ashley Larson leads the team in digs so far this season with 131.
The Mavericks will look for Senior Krista Hassing and Senior Sydney Geisness to have big games this week. Hassing leads the team with 111 kills so far this year while Geisness is second on the team with 88. Sophomore Autumn Risch leads the team with 316 assists so far this year. Last weekend, she had a career game with an amazing 59 assists against Missouri S&T. Senior Haley Fogarty is another impact player for the Mavericks. She is currently second in the NSIC in digs with 169. Look for these Mavericks to be all over the court on Thursday and Saturday.