Third-ranked Northwestern defeated No. 21 Morningside 25-15, 25-15, 25-19 in a matchup between the two volleyball teams with the longest active winning streaks in the GPAC on Tuesday in Orange City, Iowa.
Northwestern, fresh off a 3-2 victory against reigning NAIA National Champion Hastings that cost the Broncos their No. 1 national ranking and vaulted the Red Raiders from No. 11 to No. 3 in the most recent NAIA poll, won its 17th match in a row to climb to 20-1 overall and a perfect 7-0 in the GPAC.
The setback snapped a seven-match winning streak for the Mustangs, who saw their record go to 14-8 overall and 6-3 in the GPAC. Seven of the Mustangs’ eight defeats are against nationally ranked opponents.
Anna Kiel, named the NAIA National Attacker of the Week earlier in the day, was the pivotal player in Red Raiders’ triumph against the Mustangs. Kiel stung the Mustangs with a match-high 19 kills and did not have an error in 29 attack attempts en route to a .655 hitting percentage. A.J. Horstman joined her in double figures with 11 kills and a .364 hitting percentage.
Freshman Krista Zenk was the bright spot for the Mustangs, as she held her own against the third-ranked Red Raiders. Zenk paced the guests with 11 kills, followed by Jenn Buyert with six and Emma Gerber with four.
Morningside’s other leaders were Nikki Oberfoell with 11 digs and Callie Alberico with 15 assists.
The first set was all Northwestern when the Red Raiders scored 17 of their points on kills and attacked at furious .519 clip en route to a 25-15 triumph. Kiel led the way with seven kills and Horstman added five kills as the Red Raider duo combined for an .800 hitting percentage. The Mustangs’ attack, which was silent for most of the set, perked up late when Zenk had three kills and Gerber had one after Northwestern had scored its 22nd point of the set.
Kills by Zenk, Jayde Bergmann and Ashley Vande Stouwe helped the Mustangs take an early 7-5 lead in the second set and the Mustangs opened their biggest advantage of the set when Vande Stouwe and Buyert combined to block Lauryn Hilger to give the guests a 9-6 edge. Northwestern battled back to tie the score at nine on a kill by Makenzie Fink and took the lead for good at 11-10 on a kill by Horstman. Northwestern held a 16-13 lead before Kiel took over the set during a five-point Red Raider run that broke things open at 21-13. Kiel played a role in four of the points with three kills and a block. Kiel’s sixth and final kill of the set finished things off for the Red Raiders’ second straight 25-15 set triumph.
Back-to-back ace serves by Karsyn Winterfeld, the NAIA national leader in ace serves, sparked the Red Raiders to an early 4-1 advantage in the third set. The Mustangs tried to rally from a 19-11 deficit when back-to-back kills by Zenk along with terminations from Buyert and Brittni Olson brought the Mustangs within 19-15 and forced the Red Raiders into a timeout. Kiel supplied two kills and a block when the Red Raiders opened their advantage back up to 22-15. The Mustangs made one final rally when Zenk hammered three more kills and Gerber supplied another to get the guests within 23-19.
Morningside will return to action with a 7 p.m. home match against city rival Briar Cliff on Homecoming Saturday.