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Mustangs roll into region semi's Friday



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ST. PAUL, Minn. - No. 2 seed Southwest Minnesota State opened the NCAA II Central Region Tournament with a sweep over No. 7 seed Truman State (Mo.) on Thursday afternoon winning 25-20, 25-13, 25-20 in St. Paul. The win was the sixth straight win for the Mustangs over an AVCA ranked opponent.

SMSU was led by Mary Groth's 11 kills and Brooke Burmeister's 10 kills. McKell Anderson and Abbey Thissen contributed with nine kills each in their first NCAA tournament match, while Diedrich rounded out the attack with seven kills. As a whole, the Mustangs hit .273 compared to Truman's .097 hittinger percentage.

The Mustangs would start off the match strong and fast with an Abbey Thissen kill but would slow considerably as they fell to a 7-3 deficit. SMSU would battle back to erase the deficit at 10-10 and would reclaim the lead at 11-10, its first lead since the 1-0 mark. It was freshman, Abbey Thissen, in her first NCAA tournament game, who paved the way for the Mustangs in the first set as the right side hitter blasted seven kills with only one error on 13 attemps for a .462 hitting percentage. With the score 23-20, Thissen came up big on the defensive side of the ball as she notched a denial to make it 24-20 and force set point. Thissen would then finish the set off for SMSU on its first try with a big swing from the right side to propel SMSU to set victory, 25-20.

In the second set, SMSU would turn to another cog it its offense, Mary Groth. Groth headed an offensive attack that hit .480 in set two, as she went six for eight on attack attempts with no errors and a .750 hitting percentage. SMSU would take the set with ease, 25-13, capped by a Rachel Westby ace.

Truman shut down Thissen in sets two and three as the freshman recorded just two kills following her set one performance. A balanced approach emerged in the third set as the Mustangs were led by Devin Diedrich, the third different SMSU player to lead the Mustangs in kills in a set. Diedrich posted five kills on eight attempts in what would be the third and final set as SMSU took set three, 25-20.

The Bulldogs had 10 blocks in the match compared to the Mustangs' five.

Defensively, the Mustangs were strong as Brooke Burmeister notched her eight double-double of the season by adding her match-high 12 digs. Rachel Westby also tied for a match-high in digs with 12, while Whitney Burmeister had nine digs of her own. Setter, Emilee Gutzmer finished with 41 assists.

SMSU (30-2) will advance to take on No. 3 seed Nebraska-Kearney (34-2) on Friday beginning at 5 p.m. on the campus of Concordia-St. Paul University.  The teams last met in the semifinals of the 2010 NCAA Regional in Marshall with UNK ending the Mustangs' season with a 3-1 win.
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