Nov. 21, 2008

ST. PAUL, MINN. – No. 15 Minnesota Duluth used a 63 kill- and 101-dig performance to top No. 7 Southwest Minnesota State 3-1 (25-23, 29-27, 23-25, 25-11) and end the Mustangs’ season in the semifinals of the Central Region Tournament Friday afternoon in St. Paul, Minn.

UMD improves to 26-8 and moves to the championship round of the Central Region Tournament, while SMSU finishes its season with a 28-6 record.

Maggie Geske was the lone Mustang to clip the double-digit mark in kills as the freshman put down 19 balls on the afternoon.

Sara Graf dished out 36 assists in the effort and posted a double-double by adding another 15 digs to her stat sheet.

In a match full of hard-hit balls, three Mustang defenders had at least 11 digs.  In addition to Graf’s 15, Lauren Swain dug up 11 balls.  But Sarah Quiram was the defensive force in the back row for SMSU, posting a team-high 31 digs.

A Britney Wenzel service ace to kick start the first set looked to be an early momentum maker for the Mustangs as they rattled off another three unanswered points and looked to have control of the set.  However, the Bulldogs quickly quieted the SMSU run and were able to take the lead in the closing points, using a Lindsey Clairmont kill to finish the set.

A tight second set played itself out in extra points as the Bulldogs and Mustangs found themselves sporting a handful of tie scores and lead changes in the closing moments.  UMD finally managed to take the decisive set lead after Devin Diedrich sent an attack attempt long to give the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead in the match.

The third set followed suit with its two priors, emerging as a back-and-forth battle in which each of the teams looked poised to grab the set victory in the final stretch.  But UMD’s Hannah Johnson put a ball just outside the line at 24-23 to give SMSU the set and an opportunity to rally.

The Mustangs, however, failed to mount that comeback.  UMD opened the set on a 6-1 run and stretched that lead to a comfortable double-digit one.  A hard-hitting offensive attack on behalf of the Bulldogs proved too much for SMSU, and the Mustangs saw their season come to an end off a ricocheted block attempt.

The Mustangs struggled from behind the service line, committing 11 service aces in the match.

After splitting a pair of matches with the Bulldogs earlier in the season, SMSU head coach Terry Culhane was sure the contest would shape up to be a competitive one.

"We knew it was going to be a battle," Culhane said.  "We just said, 'get after it,'  and there is nothing to leave behind.  Unfortunately in the first two games they made one more play then we did.  I was proud of our kids.”

SMSU says goodbye to three seniors as Loeslie, Quiram and Hegerle all played their final matches as Mustangs on Friday.

“It was fun; it was a long run, and we had a good year," Quiram said about SMSU's successful 2008-09 campaign.  "The three seniors stuck it out, and it’s tough to be done."