DULUTH, Minn. – No. 9 Southwest Minnesota State University used a season-high 16 blocks to help down No. 2 Minnesota Duluth in five sets (25-18, 25-18, 18-25, 18-25, 15-13) in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference volleyball action on Friday night. SMSU led 2-0 heading into the intermission, but UMD was able to win two consecutive sets to force a fifth set. The Mustangs came out on top 15-13 in the final set to hand UMD its first conference loss of the season.

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SMSU, ranked seventh in the Central Region, improves to 22-6 overall on the season, including 16-3 in the NSIC while the Bulldogs fall to 27-2, 18-1 in conference play. UMD is currently the top ranked team in the Central Region rankings.

Before the win Friday, SMSU was 0-3 in five set matches during the 2011 season. SMSU improves to 14-1 in matches where it led 2-0. Southwest Minnesota State and Minnesota-Duluth played to five sets earlier in the season, with UMD coming out on top 3-2 in Marshall.

Brooke Burmeister and Alyssa Taylor were the only Mustangs to reach double-digits in kills. Burmeister led SMSU with 16 while Taylor added 14. The match saw 21 tie scores and 11 lead changes.

SMSU came out of the gate strong taking the first two sets 25-18. In the first set, UMD led 11-10 before the Mustangs were able to grab nine of the next 10 points to take a 19-12 lead. Burmeister and Taylor each had five kills for SMSU in the first set. The Mustangs turned to their block early in the match, picking up six in the first set. Burmeister had two solo blocks for SMSU in the set.

The Mustangs picked up right where they left off beginning the second set. SMSU grabbed an early 6-1 lead, before the Bulldogs crept back into the set grabbing five of the next eight points. The Mustangs stepped back on the throttle with a five-point run behind the serve of Rachel Westby.

Westby finished the match with two service aces, helping SMSU match its season-high with seven service aces in the match. Westby also picked up eight kills and 12 digs in the match.

The Bulldogs put together a four-point run to come within five at 14-19 in favor of SMSU, before the Mustangs took six of the next 10 points to win the second set 25-18.

The Bulldogs used a balanced attack late to help push the match to five sets. Hannah Johnson led the Bulldogs with 21 kills followed by Kate Lange who picked up 16 kills and April Hansen who finished with 15.

SMSU held a 14-10 lead in the third set, but the Bulldogs were able to finish off strong with two big runs to win the set 25-18. Johnson led UMD to a five-point run before Lange sparked a six-point run to finish off the set for the Bulldogs.

The Mustangs held a comfortable 6-2 lead over the Bulldogs in the fourth set before UMD reeled off a huge nine-point run to take an 11-6 lead in the set. SMSU was never able to re-cover falling 25-18 in the fourth set.

SMSU was led defensively by Brittany Wenzel who finished with 21 digs. Kenzie Niesche added 15 digs for the Mustangs while Burmeister picked up 13 digs to go with 16 kills for her 13th double-double of the season.

In the fifth set, the two teams traded points and the Bulldogs were able to take a two-point lead at 7-5 on consecutive kills. Cara Carson then served the Mustangs to four consecutive points, picking up two service aces. The senior setter finished the match with two service aces, 47 set assists, 11 digs and four blocks.

Minnesota-Duluth continued to pressure the Mustangs but SMSU was able to hang on to the lead. The Mustangs was able to reach set point at 14-11, but Johnson connected on consecutive kills to come within one at 13-14 in favor of SMSU. The Mustangs turned to its strength in the match, the block, to finish off the match with Carson and Taylor pairing up for a block assist to give the Mustangs a 15-13 fifth set win.