HUTCHINSON, KAN. – The Morningside women’s volleyball team headed into Saturday’s KCAC Fall Fling matchups knowing that, at least on paper, they would be the Mustangs’ most robust pairings to date. That preparedness paid off in the form of two more Morningside wins, 3-0 over Ottawa by scores of 26-24, 26-24, and 25-20, and 3-1 over Kansas Wesleyan, 18-25, 25-17, 25-13, and 25-23.
The Mustangs went toe-to-toe with no. 25 Ottawa University in their morning matchup, besting the Braves 47-44 in the kills column, hitting a .304 percentage to the opponents’ .224. A trio of Morningsiders, Emma Gerber (SR/Worthington, MN), Brittni Olson (SR/Sioux City, IA), and Krista Zenk (JR/Le Mars, IA), totaled 11 kills each, while Kaelyn Giefer (SO/Loveland, CO) hit for a .500 percentage and six kills. Setter Callie Alberico (SR/Fort Calhoun, NE) had 40 assists in the match.
It was a match that head coach Beth Donnelly, earlier in the week, warned that they would need to work quickly to prevent Ottawa from stretching out rallies and shifting momentum to fit their style of play. That proved easier said than done, as set three included a lengthy delay to correct a scoring error.
“The girls’ chemistry and familiarity allowed them to keep focused during the matches, despite delays that might otherwise interrupt the momentum. During the long delay in set three, the girls on the bench would start games with those on the floor. They started chants and cheers that kept them together rather than losing focus on the team and the goal,” said Donnelly.
“When it was time to start again, the leaders on the floor, like Callie, our captain, retook control and got everyone refocused. Callie has done a great job already this year, keeping the team together and moving forward.”
Defensively, Morningside amassed 52 digs in the match, led by Zenk and libero Kayla Harris(SO/Dakota City, NE) with 13 each. Ashley Boer (JR/Rock Rapids, IA) and Merrin Van Velzen(JR/Sergeant Bluff, IA) followed with seven each while the team only had three receiving errors. The Mustangs also had a team total of seven blocks.
“Ottawa played as much like a GPAC team as anyone we’ve seen so far this year. They were hard-hitting and quick.” Donnelly continued, “Our defense was great in the match, but our serve receive and serving were the difference makers in the end.”
The afternoon match started slow for the Mustangs, finding themselves at a five-point disadvantage in set one before adjustments could be made. That deficit proved to be too much to overcome in the set. Morningside went on to convincing wins in sets two and three, before the cornered Coyotes put up a fight in set four.
The Mustangs tacked another 53 kills onto an already impressive morning, led by Zenk with 16 and Giefer with 11. Alberico dished another 29 assists, while Sabrina Creason (SO/Shawnee Mission, KS) picked up 16.
On the defensive side of the net, Morningside had ten blocks, led by Courtney Baruth (FR) with four block assists and a solo block. Gerber added three assists and a solo block and Olson added three block assists. Harris picked up 16 digs in the match on the way to Morningside’s total of 62. Zenk tacked on 14 while Boer tallied nine.
“This weekend we saw what we need to work on, especially with blocking,” reflected Donnelly. “The offense found some fluidity that wasn’t as developed in the preseason. The team proved to be versatile, transitioning from one offense to another without much of a hitch.”
The Mustangs next compete in the GoSarpy.com Labor Day Classic in Bellevue, Neb., starting Friday, August 30 at 1:00 p.m. when they face No. 13 Rocky Mountain College. Other opponents on the docket include Lourdes University, Westmont College, and College of the Ozarks.