SIOUX CITY, IOWA – Morningside College held Senior Night in Allee Gymnasium Friday, Nov. 1, ahead of their match with the visiting Lancers from Mount Marty College. After the seniors were announced and hugs were shared, the Mustangs put together a three-set gift for those soon-to-be graduates, with final scores of 25-16, 25-18, and 25-10.
Set one saw the two teams trade points until they got settled in. Mount Marty took an early 5-3 lead, stretching that buffer to three and forcing a Morningside time out at 12-9.
Out of the time out, the Mustangs took control, with a Krista Zenk (JR/Le Mars, IA) equalizer tying things up at 13. A trio of Lancer errors and back-to-back kills from Zenk quickly made the score 18-13 in favor of Morningside. Mount Marty would pick up a few more points, but another kill for Zenk and pair of kills and a service ace for Callie Alberico (SR/Fort Calhoun, NE) would end the set.
“I was very pleased with the adjustments that we made,” said head coach Beth Donnelly. “After every timeout, we were making a deliberate attempt to make those adjustments discussed in the huddle.”
The Mustangs took the early lead in set two, leaving Mount Marty to play catch up. The Lancers evened the score at five and the teams exchanged points for much of the match. Down 12-14, the visitors went on a 5-0 run to take a 17-14 lead before Morningside went on their own run that included a pair of kills for Madison Hartman (SR/Morgan Hill, CA) to take a 19-17 lead. Mount Marty would get one more point as the Mustangs charged into the intermission on the strength of back-to-back-to-back blocks by Alberico and Emma Gerber (SR/Worthington, MN) and Zenk and Gerber.
A Mustang error gave Mount Marty it’s only lead in set three, as kills from Caitlin Makovicka (JR/Ceresco, NE) and Brittni Olson (SR/Sioux City, IA) and an ace from Zenk powered a 4-0 run for Morningside. The rest of the set saw the Mustangs in control, with scoring streaks punctuated by lone points for Mount Marty on the way to the final score.
“It was a bit of a slow start but once we got rolling things really started to click for us,” commented Callie Alberico after the match. “I’m proud of how we played and finished as a team.”
“It was a team win for sure,” reflected Donnelly. “These girls have been playing together for so long, any rotation we were in seemed like it was better than the last. There were lots of laughs and tremendous effort. It was a great way to finish the home portion of their careers.”
“It was a great team effort and we stuck to our fundamentals,” added Merrin Van Velzen. “It was awesome to have that win in front of our friends, family, & fans for our last home game.”
Callie Alberico led the kill percentage race, registering three kills in four good swings to lead all hitters with a .750 percentage. Krista Zenk topped the kills column for the Mustangs with nine. Madison Hartman followed with eight, followed by Emma Gerber with six.
Gerber led the defensive efforts at the net, with seven block assists. Brittni Olson, who now sits tied for the third spot all-time in total blocks, Caitlin Makovicka, and Zenk each had four, and Callie Alberico had three.
“Winning tonight was very important for us and we all knew that going in. We played hard and defense was on point all night,” said Emma Gerber. “With this being the last game to ever play on our home court for the seniors, it was a way to really show who we are, leaving it all out on the court.”
Kayla Harris (SO/Dakota City, NE) led the Mustang Mining Company, digging up nine balls in the match. Alberico followed with eight, Rylie Muhlbauer (JR/Manning, IA) had seven, Ashley Boer (JR/Rock Rapids, IA) had six, and Merrin Van Velzen (JR/Sergeant Bluff, IA) had four.
“In practice yesterday, we played a pretty intense drill that I think really prepared us for Mount Marty’s scrappiness. Everyone was going all out and nothing hit the floor,” said Brittni Olson. “I’m proud of how everyone played!”
“Every time I step on the court with these girls, we always have each other’s backs and it’s a really great environment to play in,” explained Madison Hartman. “I think it being Senior Night gave us that extra momentum to finish in three.”
Rylie Muhlbauer added, “I think we played for our seniors tonight. We played knowing that it was the last time with this group on the home court and it was extremely bittersweet. It meant everything to be able to play with this group for the whole season, and we are definitely excited for the postseason.”
Morningside wraps up the regular season on the road on Wednesday, Nov. 6 with a JV contest at 6:00 p.m. and varsity schedule for 7:30 p.m. at Dakota Wesleyan University’s Christen Athletic Center in Mitchell, S.D.