Volleyball to take on top teams in NSIC debut

Riding the momentum of a 3-1 weekend, the Minnesota State volleyball team takes on its first Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference opponent Thursday. 

“We were picked to finish 10th in the preseason poll, but that doesn’t mean much to us,” head coach Corey Phelps said. “So we’re confident, but we just need to stay healthy, keep learning, growing and figuring things out.” 

Their first opponent has the benefit of home-field advantage, as the No. 11-ranked Southwest Minnesota State University Mustangs welcome the Mavs to Marshall, Minnesota. 

The Mustangs are coming off of a 23-6 season that saw them fall in the first round of the NSIC Tournament last November. That has seemingly left a sour taste in their mouth, as they come into this match winners of six straight, while not dropping a set in any of them.

As for the outlook for the upcoming match between them and the Mavs, the Mustangs have bested the Mavs in three straight matches and nine of the last 10, while also holding a 27-13 all-time record dating back to 1994. 

Led by second year head coach Tyler Boddy, the Mustangs also carry with them two standout outside hitters in Leah Jones and Brooklyn Kusler, who lead the team with 82 and 81 kills, respectively. Kusler, who also leads the team in service aces with 13, is a big reason the Mustangs sit at 7-1 heading into this match. 

“The great thing about our conference is that we see these teams often enough that we know their strengths and weaknesses,” Phelps said. “So yes they are the 11th team in the conference, but they are vulnerable and there are areas for us to exploit.”

Additionally, the Mavs will play their first home match of the season Saturday against the Winona State Warriors.

The Warriors have also started the season 7-, but will have played another match by the time they take on the Mavs. However, they just had their seven-game winning streak snapped by Purdue Northwest Saturday.

Historically, the Mavs hold a 21-9 advantage over the Warriors, but they have struggled recently, dropping their last four matches and six of their last seven. The Mavs will try to get back to their winning ways of 1992-2004, where they won 10 straight against the Warriors.

The key to the Warriors dominance this far has been senior Sidney Paulson and sophomore Jaci Winchell. Paulson, who has 121 kills on the year, ranks second in the NSIC while Winchell ranks second in assists with 331. Another weapon in their arsenal is head coach Joe Getzin, who has been with the team for 10 years. All of their experience, talent and production makes Winona State a difficult second match for the Mavs.

Fourteen wins and two losses: That is the combined record of SMSU and Winona State staring the Mavs in the face heading into the weekend. But if this Mavs team hopes to be one that stands out in the NSIC, this will be a great test for them.

“If we can squeak into the top five in the conference, then we have a reasonable chance to get an at-large bid to get into the national tournament,” Phelps said. “That’s what we’re looking at every year. And I think we can surprise some people this year.”

Header Photo: When it comes to volleyball, the NSIC sports some pretty talented teams, including SMSU and Winona State. But the Mavs have the coaching and team chemistry to take the conference by surprise. (Photo Courtesy Maverick Athletics)

Write to Hayden Lee at

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