The Mavericks were unable to keep rolling with their recent success as they dropped two home matches to the No. 16 Augustana Vikings and No. 20 Wayne State (Nebraska). Ranked opponents have been a challenge for Minnesota State this season, as they have yet to secure a win against any team in the top-25. Head Coach Lori Rittenhouse-Wollmuth sees no reason to panic about the season after these two losses.
“We will not be changing the line-up or altering what we do,” Rittenhouse-Wollmuth said. “For us to pull off the upset and move to the next level, it’s all about the execution of our system. What we do works, we simply just need to do it for the duration of the match.”
MNSU was defeated by the Augustana Vikings in four grueling sets (21-25, 25-22, 17-25, 23-25) at the Taylor Center on the team’s “Youth Night.” The team’s play to start the first two sets proved that the head coach is correct about endurance being the Mavs’ main issue.
In the first set, Minnesota State opened the scoring up with a 6-0 lead. Slowly but surely, Augustana was able to creep back up the scoreboard and take a 17-16 lead over the Mavericks after the Vikings scored five points to Minnesota State’s one score on a service error. The lead would remain with Augustana for the remainder of the opening set, giving the Vikings a 25-21 win.
The sole win in the match for the Mavericks was in the second set of the match. Once again, the Mavs came out guns-blazing, starting the set with an 8-0 lead. Although the Vikings showed resistance towards the end of the match, the Mavericks’ lead was insurmountable and MNSU took the second set 25-22.
The Mavs showed spirit in the third and fourth sets of the “Youth Night” home match.
“I thought as a team we displayed our athleticism and passion for the game,” said Rittenhouse-Wollmuth. “We’ve focused on improving our defensive play and I think it showed in the long, scrappy, exciting rallies.”
Efficient offense was also in the mix over the two sets; minimal attack errors by both teams made for an exciting conclusion to the match. The third of the four sets played was the Mavericks’ least competitive scoring-wise against the Vikings, putting up a match-low 17 points (although the team did bounce back after being down 7-2 early in the set).
The last set remained extremely competitive until Augustana was able to seal the deal in the end. The make-or-break set for the Mavericks was tied at a whopping 14 different times throughout.
Minnesota State made a late rally to tie the set at 23 after being down 22-18. An attack error by the Mavericks paired with a kill from Augustana ended the hopes for a fifth set and the Vikings clinched the win with a score of 25-23 in the final frame.
It was the No. 20 Wayne State Wildcats turn to visit the Taylor Center on Saturday afternoon. Similarly to the match against Augustana, the Mavericks showed off their ability to remain competitive with the other team but unfortunately couldn’t prevail against another ranked team (25-15, 15-25, 25-20, 23-25).
The two teams traded performances in the first two sets of the NSIC match. The Mavericks were on the winning end of the first set, easily handling the Wildcats 25-15 with most of the points being a result of a high-powered offense tallying kills. Set number two would not go the Mavericks’ way as they were on the other end of the score sheet, losing 25-15.
Another late rally in the third propped Minnesota State into position to take a match-lead 2-1 over the Wildcats. Unfortunately for the Mavs, Wayne State held onto its lead and went on to win the set 25-20.
In one last-ditch effort to take the match victory away from Wayne State, the Mavericks fought hard to contend while being down on the scoreboard for the majority of the final set. The Wildcats proved too much for MNSU and the visitors finished off the match with a 25-23 win over the Mavericks on the home team’s autograph night.
“NSIC Volleyball is a beast, there are no easy matches. We have a difficult road to get to the postseason but it is most definitely possible,” said the head coach. “If there is one thing we learned as a team from this weekend it is the belief that we have the athletes, we have the skill and we have the systems to defeat any team on any day.”