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SMSU Derailed in Regional Tourney



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ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Southwest Minnesota State volleyball team’s record breaking season ended on Friday evening at the hands of the No. 3 seeded Nebraska-Kearney Lopers. The Mustangs fell in four sets, 21-25, 18-25, 28-26, 14-25.  This is the second time in three years the Lopers have ended SMSU’s season and the Mustangs are now 7-10 overall in the NCAA Tournament.

SMSU finished the match with 28 errors and just a .173 hitting percentage compared to UNK’s 11 errors and .282 hitting percentage. Three Mustangs finished the match with double-doubles, McKell Anderson (14 kills, 11 digs), Brooke Burmeister (12 kills, 15 digs) and Emilee Gutzmer (52 assists, 12 digs). McKell Anderson’s 14 kills were a match high. Rachel Westby and Whitney Burmeister rounded out the double-digit dig totals with 15 and 13, respectively.

“I think you got to give Nebraska-Kearney a lot of credit, they are a really good team,” Culhane said. “We knew coming in that knew with this region you need to be ready to play and you need to play well. They were just better than us and much more consistent than we were tonight and that sums it up.”

In the first set, SMSU looked to hit deep into the Loper defense to combat their packed in defensive set-up. SMSU’s hitters would miss on numerous occasions, leading to its 10 errors and .077 attacking percentage in the set. SMSU never led in the match and only managed three ties. The Mustangs tried to rally late with a nicely placed kill down the line by Devin Diedrich to close the gap to 20-18. Out of the timeout, UNK would respond with a momentum swinging block to push the lead to 21-18 and the Lopers would surge to a 25-21 set victory.

SMSU came out flat to open up the second set as they fell into a 6-1 hole. Looking for a spark, head coach Terry Culhane turned to his bench and put in Claire Sames and Ellen Degler. The spark didn’t come as the Loper lead would grow to six points as the score stood 12-6. UNK continued to put pressure on SMSU and the Mustangs caved as the Lopers took the second set 25-18 and a 2-0 lead into the third set. “Anytime you make errors there’s contributing factors and I think we helped contribute to that and so did they,” head coach Terry Culhane stated. “I thought they did a good job of touching a lot of balls, and I thought they defended well and were aggressive.”

UNK had many opportunities to take the match in the third set as the Lopers failed to convert on all four match points. SMSU fended off the Lopers late surge and converted on its first chance to take the set. Abbey Thissen had a clutch kill to secure the set victory, 28-26 and push the match into the fourth set.

In the fourth set, SMSU stuttered out of the gate and head coach Terry Culhane was forced to use both of his timeouts with the set at 11-7. Out of the timeout, the Lopers would push the lead to 13-7 and wouldn’t look back from there as SMSU couldn’t recover from the deficit. UNK would take the fourth set and match by a set score of 25-14.

 “These three to my right (Mary Groth, Brooke Burmeister, and Devin Diedrich) have had a huge impact on SMSU volleyball. I’m really proud of them,” added Culhane.

Playing in their final volleyball game in a Mustang uniform were Devin Diedrich, Brooke Burmeister and Mary Groth. They will leave the SMSU program as some of the most decorated players in SMSU history.

“My time here was more than I can really explain, it’s a really, really big deal in my life,” said senior middle blocker Devin Diedrich. These guys were my family and Terry was like a second dad to me and helped my life in a lot of ways…being a part of this program - really helped mold me as a person – not just as a volleyball player. I can’t thank my team and the coaching staff enough for doing the things they have done for me. We have to remember all the things we accomplished while we were here and we can’t be disappointed. (The NSIC Tournament title) that was awesome and that hasn’t happened since we’ve been here. Just the things we were able to be a part of, like last year going to the sweet sixteen…it was an awesome feeling,” concluded Diedrich.

“You come into SMSU volleyball thinking it’s just a sport but it comes out more of a family and we really are a close-knit group of girls and that’s what we (Diedrich, Burmeister and Groth) are really going to miss the most, said senior outside hitter, Brooke Burmeister.  

“Coming in everybody is your family, your teammates are your family and you get so close with them and it’s just so awesome to have them around with you,” added senior middle blocker, Mary Groth. “Coming in as a freshman, I didn’t expect at all what I accomplished during my career and it’s just awesome and I couldn’t have done it without my teammates and coaches.”

Respectively, Devin Diedrich, Mary Groth and Brooke Burmeister finished their SMSU careers ranked third, fourth and fifth on SMSU’s all-time kill list.

When asked if this squad was the best he had ever coached, Terry Culhane quickly responded with, “Yes.”

SMSU ends the 2012 season 30-3 overall, its most wins in a season since 1991. The Mustangs were NSIC regular season tri-champions and the 2012 NSIC / US Bank Tournament champions.

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