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MANKATO, MINN. (September 14, 2012): For two victorious sets and up until an attack error four points into the third frame, the USF volleyball team (8-2) had put its best foot forward in its NSIC opener against No. 11 Minnesota State, Mankato (7-3) Friday night at Bresnan Arena.

But then the momentum began to shift, as Cougars’ team attack percentage dropped more than 400 points between the second and fourth frames to open the door for the Mavericks, who made quick work of the Cougars in the third and fourth stanzas to set up the decisive fifth set.

That’s when it all came crashing down for the visiting Cougars. USF blockers kept looking up at the MSU senior tandem of Chelsea Fogarty and Courteney Steinhauser, who combined for eight kills in the fifth set. And when a serve by MSU’s Jill Storlie landed out of the reach of the Cougars’ last line of defense, USF suffered a come-from-ahead, five-set loss to the country’s 11th-ranked team (25-23, 25-20, 18-25, 15-25, 8-15).

“Mankato broke our hearts tonight,” said head coach Joel McCartney. “We came to win this match and truthfully we have to give our opponents all of the credit.”

“They were the more experienced team and made every necessary adjustment to control the final three sets,” he added.

The first set was a back-and-forth affair with seven ties and neither team able to take control of the set. With MSU leading 15-10, the Cougars powered a comeback to later tie the set at 18-18 and moved in front 19-18 on a kill by Alexa Reed. With the set at 23-all, back-to-back kills by Chanda Goedken and Samantha Lovell clinched the set win for USF.

Leading 16-15 in the second set, the Cougars posted a 9-5 run courtesy of stabs by Johnson and Sarah Kohler to take the set by the score of 25-20.

After the Mavericks rattled off four straight points to take a 6-2 lead early in the third set, they easily held the Cougars in check as USF was unable to get any closer than three points the rest of the way. A kill by Fogarty’s gave the set to the Mavericks, 25-18.

The Mavericks jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the fourth set and the Cougars posted four straight points thanks to a pair of MSU errors couple with an ace by Emily Johnson and a kill by freshman Kellee Griese to move in front 4-3. That would stand as the Cougars’ only lead in the set; MSU posted several multiple point runs and breezed to the 25-15 victory.

The Cougars never led in the final set.

Goedken had a team-high 13 kills on 26 swings for a hitting clip of .308. Kohler posted eight kills and a .300 attack percentage. Emily Johnson had a double-double, collecting 11 kills and 13 digs.

Alexa Reed tallied 37 assists. Libero Andrea Odbert had 16 digs.

“Chanda and Sarah provided great offense tonight and we were leaning on their maturity throughout the match,” McCartney said.

Defensively, the Cougars were out-blocked by MSU 14-5. Lovell led USF with one solo block and three block assists.

“Our biggest area of improvement will need to be defensively and specifically at the net,” McCartney said.

The Cougars travel to St. Paul tomorrow for their first-ever matchup versus the five-time defending national champion Concordia-St. Paul Golden Bears. First serve is scheduled for 3 p.m.

“It’s not going to get any easier tomorrow but we will give it everything we have,” McCartney added.
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