MSU volleyball swept by No. 9 Southwest Minnesota State

Alex Eisen/MDN Minot State junior Quinn Billaney (3) picks up a dig Saturday afternoon against Southwest Minnesota State inside the MSU Dome.

For a second consecutive day, the Minot State volleyball team had to face a nationally ranked opponent on its home court.

That’s life in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.

No. 9-ranked Southwest Minnesota State (8-2, 2-0 NSIC) kept the Beavers (0-10, 0-2 NSIC) winless Saturday afternoon with a three-set victory by set scores of 25-14, 25-17, 25-12.

“This group is further along than they were last year, and I hope people can realize that,” MSU head coach Dana Cordova said. “I’m not at all disappointed in today’s performance. Yeah, we didn’t get the points we want, but it’s starting to come together.”

MSU opened the first set with a 4-1 lead. SMSU stormed ahead with a 9-0 run and didn’t let up for a 25-14 opening set win.

The height of the Mustangs gave the Beavers problems throughout the match. Especially middle blockers Sarina Smith (6-foot-3) and Zoe Lier (6-foot-2), who each collected three blocks.

“They are big,” Cordova said. “They alter a lot of shots and take up a lot of space on the net. But, one part of our game that took that out was our serve-receive.”

MSU’s 6-foot-2 middle blocker Hayley Swain made her presence known in the second set with a couple of solo blocks. She finished with three kills and three blocks.

“It’s interesting to see how much harder we can work,” said Swain about facing ranked competition. “Personally, I need to attack more. Just attack the game better.”

With the second set slipping away, Cordova switched out her setter. Sophomore Sophia Peterson came in for junior starter Mackenzie Froehlich.

“We needed a change,” Cordova said. “Timeouts had already been used, so it was just to give us three hitters in the front row.”

Senior outside hitter Jeanne Brenner helped the Beavers keep the second set closer than the first with a handful of kills, but the Mustangs took the frame regardless at 25-17.

Brenner ended up with a team-high seven kills. Senior Shelby Spuller was one kill behind with six.

Back-to-back kills from Spuller and Brenner gave MSU a quick 2-0 lead to start the third set. The Beavers ended with a .019 attack percentage, compared to SMSU’s .304 mark.

“We need to fix the little things and stay disciplined,” Swain said. “We really focused on our attitudes, staying connected and working together.”

Cordova called a timeout with MSU down 17-6 in the third set. Getting swept for a sixth straight match was practically unavoidable at this point, but finishing strong was the message.

MSU managed to double its score before bowing out at 25-12.

“We need to get a complete game,” Cordova said. “It’s not about how we start, it’s going to be about how we finish. They came into this week working really hard, and in the locker room they aren’t defeated. As a coach, that’s kind of what you are worried about when you are struggling.”

SMSU was led attacking wise by Angela Young and Meg Schmidt with 13 and 12 kills, respectively.

The schedule doesn’t get any easier for Minot State.

The Beavers are on the road next weekend against No. 20 Wayne State on Friday (9-1, 1-1 NSIC) and Augustana (8-2, 1-1 NSIC) on Saturday.

“In the NSIC, you are playing against the best in the country,” Cordova said. “You could get really frustrated because you could be like, ‘Oh, if we were somewhere else, we would be winning.’ But, our thing is, we aren’t focusing on winning. We are focusing on learning. I tell the girls that as long as we keep learning and finding things to build on, we will make improvements.”

Alex Eisen covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.