The Free Press, Mankato, MN

College Sports

September 22, 2010

MSU falls short against defending champion Concordia-St. Paul

Kuhl picks up 19 kills for Mavericks

MANKATO — Minnesota State had a chance to go up 2-0 on the defending national volleyball champions, but Concordia-St. Paul found a way to win the second set.

Had the Mavericks claimed that set, maybe the outcome would have been different. However, the sixth-rated Bears were able to prevail 3-1 in a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference matchup Tuesday at Bresnan Arena.

Game scores were 16-25, 25-23, 25-18, 25-20 as the Bears defeated Minnesota State for the 10th straight time.

“It’s a maturity thing,”  coach Dennis Amundson said. “It’s program maturity and player maturity. They’ve had a lot of success, and we haven’t had that breakthrough moment. We’re still searching for that. It was better tonight than it was (in Saturday’s loss at Southwest Minnesota State), but we still have a lot of work to do.”

Concordia-St. Paul has won the last three national championships and are 120-2 in conference matches in the last seven-plus seasons, with a 55-match win streak intact.

Minnesota State took a 4-1 lead to get the crowd of 977 juiced up in the first set. The score was tied at 10 when the Mavericks’ Alli Rice served seven straight points, spanning two timeouts, to open the gap, with Amanda Thompson making two kills.

The margin remained comfortable until Courtney Steinhauser’s kill ended things at 25-14.

“We knew they were going to come back hard at us,” senior Kimber Kuhl said. “We knew we had to keep pushing.”

The second set was much closer, with the biggest lead coming at 19-16 for Concordia-St. Paul. The Mavericks pulled even at 20 on a kill by Kuhl, who had seven in the set, but the Bears scored the last three points, the final one coming on an ace serve, to win 25-23.

“It was frustrating not to put some balls down and get sideouts,” Kuhl said. “We have to learn to keep pushing.”

Concordia-St. Paul ran out to a 14-4 lead in the third set before the Mavericks scored three straight, the last two on kills by Amanda Beekman. Minnesota State ran off five straight points, with  Beekman getting three kills, to pull within 23-17, but the Bears finished the set at 25-18.

The Mavericks jumped ahead 8-4 in the fourth set as Beekman made a couple kills, but Concordia-St. Paul scored the next four points and eventually used a 7-1 run to lead 18-14.

The Bears were up 23-16 before Steinhauser made a kill and two blocks, but the match ended at 25-20.

“You have to keep attacking when you play volleyball,” Amundson said. “You can’t play afraid. We’re still hitting into the block instead of hitting off the block.”

Kuhl had 19 kills, and Beekman added 11. Brittany Stamer had 47 assists, and Samantha Dale and Alli Rice provided 17 and 16 digs, respectively.

Concordia-St. Paul had five players with at least 10 kills, and the Bears had 76 digs and nine blocks.

The Mavericks, who have lost two straight to opponents ranked in the top 6 in Division II, had 61 digs and five blocks.

Minnesota State (9-2, 1-2 in Northern Sun) plays Friday at Bemidji State and Saturday at Minnesota Duluth.

“There are a lot of tough teams in this league, and you’re going to play someone good every week,” Amundson said. “Even though we didn’t win, we improved. And if we can get to the (national tournament), we should be battle-tested.”

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