SIOUX CITY | A difficult early season schedule has produced a deceiving record for the Morningside College women’s volleyball team, but the Mustangs appeared thankful to be back home on Thursday.
Morningside, despite a modest 7-7 mark, was No. 24 in the first regular season NAIA national rankings of the season. Perhaps that’s because six of its seven losses are against nationally ranked opponents.
The Mustangs swept Great Plains Athletic Conference foe Mount Marty 25-18, 25-16, 25-21 at Allee Gym, showcasing a deep and talented front line that dominated at the net.
“It felt good to be back home in our gym,” Morningside Coach Beth Donnelly said. “Who was the stupid coach that made that schedule? I have no idea.”
While team leader Jayde Bergmann led the way with 14 kills, gifted sophomores Brittni Olson and Emma Gerber also did their share of damage with 11 and 10 kills, respectively. Krista Zenk, a freshman from Le Mars, Iowa, nailed six kills while sophomore Brittany Fleming had five.
Morningside posted a .224 attack percentage compared to .056 for Mount Marty. The Mustangs more than doubled the Lancers in kills, 49-21.
“We set up our pre-season to try and prepare for conference and most of the time other conferences are doing opposite of that because their conference is nowhere as strong as the GPAC,” Donnelly said. “We’re not sitting where we want to, there were a couple of those matches that got away from us, but I liked the chemistry tonight. We had some different people in different rotations trying to save some people’s arms for future matches.
“My young kids came and brought it today and I was really pleased. Emma Gerber just jumps out of the gym in the middle and did real well for us tonight.”
Donnelly was able to rest senior hitter Jenn Buyert, who had four double kill performances in her last six matches.
Defensive specialists Callie Alberico and Nikki Oberfoell also turned in outstanding performances. Alberico had 42 assists and nine digs and Oberfell 17 digs, while Morgan Gourley contributed 13 digs and freshman Merrin Van Velzen (Sergeant Bluff-Luton) six digs.
While admitting that the national ranking is a feather in her team’s cap, Donnelly was quick to point out that means little this time of year.
“Nothing really matters until the very end of the year but it’s nice people are recognizing not to look at our record and think that’s really how we are,” Donnelly said. “There is some stellar competition we’ve played and we’ve come up just a little short. I like that people are looking at strength of schedule when they make those votes.”
The Mustangs are now 8-7 overall and 1-2 in the GPAC with league losses to No. 5 Dordt and No. 9 Midland.
Mount Marty (6-4, 0-2) scored four straight points after a time out to take a 13-12 lead in the first game, but the Mustangs answered with six in a row, capped by a Bergmann kill.
Morningside led the entire second game with the exception of the first point, ending it on a Gerber swat. The Mustangs erased a 16-13 deficit in the third game with a 5-0 run, then when Mount Marty scored five of the next seven points to surge in front 21-10, reeled off the last five, including a stuff block by Gerber to end the match.
Laura Cattle led Mount Marty with eight kills, while Lindsey Jaixen had 20 assists and Taylor Murtha 15 digs.
Morningside hosts Dakota State Friday and travels to crosstown rival Briar Cliff on Tuesday.