Mavs “embrace the struggle” in conference losses

The regular season officially kicked off for Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference play, and the Mavericks took on their first conference opponents over the weekend. 

The Mavs played their first game in their home state Thursday, but not in their home arena. No. 11 Southwest Minnesota State hosted the Mavs in both teams’ conference opener, where the Mustangs swept the Mavs, 3-0.

It was a dominant performance from the Mustangs, who won the first set 25-17, the second 25-14, and completed the sweep with another 25-17 win in set three.

Sophie Tietz recorded seven kills, which led the team, and also finished second on the team in blocks with four. Kiya Durant led the team in blocks with six, which also was a match high. Ellie Kline led the team in digs with 16.

Everything you need to know about the Mavs volleyball matchup with SMSU can be found in the kill count. SMSU: 48. MSU: 25 Saari Kuehl had 12, Karli Arkell had 11 and Emma VanHeel had 9, the main contributors to their advantage. 34 assists from Alisa Bengen was another reason the Mustangs’ offense was so efficient. Two aces from both VanHeel and Leah Jones were also critical.

With a performance like that from an opponent, it is tough to win. However, the Mavs are aware of what needs to be done in the future. 

“We need to make changes quicker when our opponent shows their hand,” said Mavs coach Corey Phelps in a press release posted to the Maverick Athletics website. “Despite the good things we did tonight, we were not disciplined on defense and that cost us. We will be better moving forward.”

And moving forward, they were better. However, it was not good enough to come away with a win. In their home opener, the Mavs hosted the Winona State Warriors, allowing them to leave with a 3-1 win Saturday afternoon.

The first and fourth sets were taken by the Warriors in convincing fashion, 25-15 (1) and 25-13 (4). But the middle sets were a competitive battle, where the Mavs took the second set 25-21 before falling 25-21 in the third. 

The kill gap was not as big this time, as the Mavs had 48, compared to the Warriors’ 58. Toryn Richards led the Mavs in kills with 11, while Durant and Tietz added nine of their own. Brooke Bolwerk assisted on 30 of the Mavs’ points, while Ellie Kline led the way defensively with 32 digs. 

In a closer match, Winona State’s offense was not nearly as good as SMSU’s, but Sidney Paulson and Jayda Berg still recorded 14 kills each. Kylie Welch also served up five service aces in the four sets. 

Facing two top teams in the same weekend is a tall task, but the Mavs leave the weekend with some things to think about and work on.

“[Winona State] is a really good team, but despite the loss, we still had moments of greatness. For example, we played very well in the second set,” said Phelps. “We feed off our own energy… Each point there is increased pressure. We have to learn and work within the pressure and embrace the struggle. Live in the present.”

The Mavs hope to bring their energy to life once again Thursday, as they take on No.1 ranked Concordia St. Paul at home.

Header Photo: The NSIC has been a very talented conference recently. Already this year, five teams have been ranked inside the top-twelve. They will take on no. 1 ranked Concordia St. Paul Thursday. (Dalton Grubb/The Reporter)

Write to Hayden Lee at hayden.lee@mnsu.edu

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