Mustangs upset in home sectional

Top-seeded Southwest Minnesota State suffered its second lowest hitting percentage (.179) of the season and had its seven-match win streak snapped by Minnesota Duluth, which came away with a 25-23, 25-15, 25-23 sweep over SMSU on Friday night in the second of two NCAA Central Region semifinal matches in the PE Gym.

The loss drops the Mustangs' record to 11-4 on the year against the AVCA Top-25 and 5-3 against the nation's top 10 teams.

Megan Larson of Minneota ended her illustrious career as the team setter. "We've depended on her and counted on her for the better part of four years," said Coach Terry Culhane. "There is literally no doubt in my mind that that kid loved volleyball." He added, "This is a hard day for her, for everybody. She would love to play four more years of volleyball," he said about Larson.

"That time comes and she had a wonderful career and has been a great player."

After competing in their 15th NCAA Tournament and 14th consecutive, the Mustangs fall to 3-8 all-time in the NCAA Central Region semifinal round following Friday night's loss.

Taylor Reiss and Kaylee Burmeister, the Mustangs' two leading hitters all season long, finished tied for the team lead with 10 kills each against UMD. Megan Larson had 31 assists to conclude her SMSU career as the Mustangs' all-time leader with 5,574 career assists. Larson also finishes her career as the current NCAA Division II leader in career assists.

The Mustangs had 18 kills in the first set with a .381 hitting percentage as a team, converting on 17 of 24 sideout attempts (70 percent). UMD went 18 of 24 (75 percent) on its sideout attempts however, as the first set, which was tied late at 21-21, saw 13 tied scores and three lead changes. UMD won three straight points to take a 24-21 lead and put the set away at 25-23 with a kill from Makenzie Morgen who finished with 12 kills on the night.

UMD dominated the second set as SMSU couldn't find its rhythm and suffered from eight attack errors and a negative hitting percentage.

Like the first set, the third set also saw momentum trade sides often, but with long, extended runs from each team as there were just two lead changes and two tied scores. UMD jumped ahead 9-2 early before SMSU went on a 5-0 run to get back within two.

UMD then went on a short run of its own to take a 14-8 lead which SMSU responded to with a 7-0 run to take a 15- 14 lead . UMD then won the next four points to take a lead it would not surrender as the Mustangs fell short in a 25-23 third set win for the Bulldogs.

UMD will advance to play second-seeded Concordia-St. Paul in the Central Region championship match on Saturday at 3 p.m.

The 2017 season saw SMSU notch three wins over No. 1 ranked opponents (each against Concordia-St. Paul) in addition to racking up the most wins to start a season in school history (16).

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