SIOUX CENTER, IOWA – Tonight’s women’s volleyball match at Dordt University was guaranteed to be a tough one, but was a match that was winnable for the Mustangs, both on paper and as it played out in DeWitt Gymnasium. Morningside was lacking some of its usual energy, but hung with the host Defenders the whole way in the three-set loss, 25-20, 25-22, and 25-23.
The Mustangs started set one slow, tallying eight errors to find themselves down 15-5 before grappling their way back into the set, thanks in part to as string of back-to-back-to-back kills by Brittni Olson (SR/Sioux City, IA), Krista Zenk (JR/Le Mars, IA), and Caitlin Makovicka (JR/Ceresco, NE). A pair of Dordt errors and a Kaelyn Giefer (SO/Loveland, CO) kill made the score 17-11 in favor of the hosts.
“It seemed like we were missing some chemistry tonight,” analyzed head coach Beth Donnelly. She continued, “We definitely started flat and Dordt’s first seven points were off of five of our errors.”
Six points later, Morningside trailed 20-14 when a Kayla Harris (SO/Dakota City, NE) kill ignited another four-point run for the Mustangs to make the score 20-18. The teams would trade points for the remainder of the set, with Dordt taking advantage of a pair of Morningside errors on the way to a 25-20 set score.
“We switched into a 5-1 offense with Callie because we were trying to break up their defense at the front line,” explained Donnelly. “Callie played very well on defense and was aggressive offensively for us. I thought that was one of her better matches this season, all-around.”
Set two again saw the Mustangs start slow, scoring first, but trailing 3-1 early. Morningside would tie the set at five before Dordt rattled off three straight points to make the score 7-5. Madison Hartman (SR/Morgan Hill, CA) and Callie Alberico (SR/Fort Calhoun, NE) picked up kills for the Mustangs as they tied the score again at nine. The teams would trade points until the scores reached 20 before Dordt would go on a three-point run that would be the difference-maker at the end of the set, with a final score of 25-22.
Morningside went on a three-point run to take a 3-1 lead at the start of what would turn out to be the final set of the night. Dordt tied things at 4-4 before going on a 7-3 run to take an 11-7 lead. The Mustangs fought their way back into the set courtesy of three Defender errors and kills from Makovicka, Gerber, and Zenk to close the gap to 15-13. The visitors would stay within a few points until another Zenk kill brought the score to 21-20 in favor of the hosts. A pair of Dordt kills and a Morningside error backed the Mustangs into a corner at 24-20, but a Defender error left the door open. A pair of Morningside kills off of serves by Emma Gerber (SR/Worthington, MN) put the pressure on Dordt, until one last kill for the home team ended the match at 25-23.
The Mustangs had 36 kills with 20 errors for a .140 hitting percentage on the night with the defense collecting just three team blocks and 46 digs.
At the net, Morningside was lead by Zenk with eight kills, and Gerber and Makovicka with six each. Callie Alberico had five kills in seven attempts for a match-leading .714 hitting percentage. The Mustangs’ Alberico had 23 of the team’s 28 assists in the match.
Morningside slips to 14-9 after the loss and maintains a .609 winning percentage, just sitting above the requisite .600 mark to qualify for a national championship host seat as they head into part two of Sioux County week on Saturday, Oct. 26, with a 5:00 p.m. match at top-ranked Northwestern College following a 3:30 p.m. JV match.
“The pressure on us is high right now, however it is completely under our control. We have three matches left and must win two of them if we want to stay alive in the postseason. If we can find that energy we have lost in the last few matches I am hopeful we can pull it off.”