Taylor pushes SMSU to opening sweep
Freshman posts 16 kills to help Mustangs overcome MSU block
KEARNEY, NEB. – No. 9 Southwest Minnesota State, the fifth seed in the NCAA Central Region tournament, used a balanced offensive attack to defeat fourth-seeded and 12th-ranked Metro State 25-19, 28-26, 25-22 on Thursday evening.
SMSU advances to the Central Region semifinals for the fifth time in school history and improve to 24-6 on the season. Metro State saw its season come to an end, finishing the year 24-7.
Freshman middle blocker Alyssa Taylor led the Mustangs with 16 kills. Mary Groth and Brooke Burmeister each added 13 kills for SMSU.
The Roadrunners were led by senior outside hitter and RMAC Player of the Year Bri Morleay, who led all players with 20 kills. She was the only Roadrunner to reach double-digits in kills.
SMSU had a hot hand to start the first set, taking 11 of the first 14 points. Metro State recovered to gain the next four points before the Mustangs stretched their lead to 19-10 following a four-point.
SMSU took a 21-13 lead in the set before another three-point run by the Roadrunners, including consecutive kills by Morley. Two of SMSU’s final four points in the set came on serve errors by Metro State.
The Mustangs were able to take another early lead in the second set, going up by a score of 11-5. Metro State put together a seven-point run to take a 12-11 lead as Morley provided four kills to fuel Metro State’s comeback.
From that point on, the teams traded points for the remainder of the set. No team held a lead larger than two points before the Mustangs went up at 24-23. Metro State grabbed the next two points on a kill by Causseaux and a Roadrunner block. After back-to-back kills by Taylor SMSU had set point at 26-25 but a kill by Greenhalgh tied the match up at 26 each. Taylor and Westby teamed up for a block assist and Groth drilled her sixth kill of the match to give SMSU a 28-26 second-set victory.
SMSU once again started off strong in the third set. The Mustangs jumped out to a six-point lead at 11-5 as, during a four-point run to begin the set, the Mustangs benefitted from four Metro State errors. SMSU pushed its lead to 17-10 after a back-to-back kills by Groth and Taylor before Metro State looked poised to make a comeback, grabbing the next three points. Taylor answered back to push SMSU’s lead to eight, connecting on three consecutive kills.
The Roadrunners took seven of the next nine points to come within two at 24-22. It took the Mustangs six tries, but SMSU was able to come away with the set and the match on a kill by Cara Carson.
Carson finished the match with 43 set assists and 16 digs. Brittany Wenzel led SMSU defensively with 22 digs.
Metro State badly out-blocked the Mustangs 12-3, led by Shayne Kovach who finished with six block assists.
Ngoc Phan, the RMAC Libero of the Year, led the Roadrunners with 22 digs.