NCAA women's volleyball: How a sister act has led to continued success for Southwest Minnesota State
Southwest Minnesota State has been a model of consistency in DII women's volleyball. Since 2009, the Mustangs have never won fewer than 24 games. They have also never missed the NCAA Regional tournament over those eight years.
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One name has remained synonmous with winning at Southwest Minnesota State during that span. In each and every one of those postseason runs, there was a Burmeister sister playing a big role.
Kaylee Burmester is the most recent of the volleyball sisters to help the Mustangs to yet another big season. Brooke was the first of the sister act to make an impact on the Marshall, Minnesota campus. She ended her career with 107 wins, while she's still fifth all-time in kills and seventh in points. Next came Whitney. Unlike her two sisters who are both outside hitters, Whitney was the libero for the team, finishing with 106 wins of her own.
"I did not know that I was going to follow in my older sisters’ footsteps when I was younger," the youngest Burmeister, Kaylee, said. "As I grew older I got to know more about Southwest and Marshall itself and fell in love with every part of it. I played, like my older sisters did, on the JO team based out of Marshall (Southwest Minnesota Juniors) and got to know the coaches and program more and liked everything about it."
Mustangs win fourth straight at Upper Iowa https://t.co/lOuNp29UTb— SMSU Athletics (@SMSUMustangs) October 21, 2017
Brooke and Whitney were able to play together one season in 2012. That season was the Mustangs best finish of the Burmeister era, ending the season 30-3. Three years later, Kaylee got to experience the same thing, playing her freshman campaign with Whitney in her final season.
"I loved it," Kaylee said. "Not everyone gets the chance to play with their older sister at a collegiate level. She always pushed and helped me whether it was on the court or in school. Especially as a freshman adjusting to the college feel, she was always supportive and helped me adjust to every aspect of a college student-athlete. Also before entering SMSU, I already had a good connection with the players and coaches which made the process easier for a freshman coming into a successful program."
Since 2009 when the first Burmeister took the court for the Mustangs, Southwest Minnesota State has put up a 211-52 record. You would think that her sisters had but one message for their youngest sibling.
Don't mess it up.
"SMSU always has had a good and successful program by bringing in players who are dedicated, have a hard working attitude, and want to compete at a competitive level," Burmeister said. "I do not see it as pressure [to live up to her sisters' success], but more as fun. We all are competitive, but each of us have different strengths and weaknesses. The coaches never compared us to each other, but understood each of our strengths and were always there for us on and off the court. We never competed with each other, instead we were always there for support and guidance."
Southwest Minnesota State returned to its perch atop the AVCA DII rankings this week, a spot it held for four-straight weeks earlier in the season. Now 20-1, is Kaylee the Burmeister to bring the much-anticipated, yet ever-elusive national championship to Marshall?
"We all know how competitive this conference, region, and division is," Burmeister said. "We have been focusing on improving each day in every aspect of the game. But also, competing hard for each other because you need everyone engaged all the time. That is what so great about volleyball, is you need everyone on board, not just one, two, or three players. Everyone plays a major role and part of the team. On the court we all, teammates and coaches, are focused on the same goal.
"Having that support system through the school and community is a wonderful feeling to have with us throughout the whole year and towards postseason. Our team is surrounded with tons of support from the school and community, which gives the team more confidence."
The Mustangs have seven more games on the regular season schedule. Then it's onto the grueling task of an NSIC Tournament filled with seven current Top 25 teams. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Let's step off the court and find out what makes Kaylee the most important piece of the Burmeister sister act.
Favorite sports movie: I grew up on a farm with many animals, including four horses. I was always fascinated by horse races, and like the movie Secretariat. It is incredible that he won the triple crown by 31 lengths with a record that could possibly never be broken, it's unbelievable.
Favorite sports team: All Minnesota sports teams. Twins, Vikings, Gophers, Wild and Lynx.
Someone you’d like to meet: Kerri Walsh.
What’s in your headphones pregame: Any of today's hits, whether it is country or pop music.
Superstitions: I always put my shoes on left side first, then right side.
Biggest fear: Spiders.
Favorite cartoon growing up: Kim Possible.
Something your own teammates may not even know about you: I dislike any snack that is orange flavor.
What’s the best part about being a Mustang? The family feel that SMSU and Marshall brings. We have a very supportive community, campus, and boosters who always come out to watch and support all sports on campus.