BY BREANN LENZMEIER
Before the MSUM volleyball team played a match this season, the team had set their goal on finishing in the top half of the conference and advancing to the conference tournament.
The team started off on the right path, opening the season at 8-1. But a series of injuries and tough games saw the team drop in the conference standings.
Entering the final homestand of the season, the team was tied for eighth in the conference; the top eight teams advance to the conference tournament. Hosting No. 8, Southwest Minnesota State University on Friday, the team looked to string together two wins in a row to finish the season on a high note.
The Dragons took the opening set in the match 25-23, but the Mustangs controlled the rest of the match and won in four sets. Led by sophomore Kaitlin VanWinkle and redshirt freshman Kristy Bruni the Dragons rallied back in the fourth set before the Mustangs came back to win the fourth set 25-21.
Stepping onto the court for Saturday’s regular season finale, the team found themselves one spot out of the top eight. Hosting the University of Sioux Falls (S.D.) the Dragons and Cougars went the distance in the match.
A back and forth match that saw strong play from both teams, it came down to the wire in the fifth set. MSUM jumped out to a lead and looked to close the match out, but Sioux Falls rallied back and prevailed winning the set 17-15 and the match 3-2.
“It was anybody’s match at the end, and it could have been either one,” head coach Tammy Blake said. “They did a good job shutting us down offensively.”
With the Dragons dropping both matches, the team fell short of making the conference tournament. They finished one spot away from advancing to the postseason.
Even with the team falling short, there were many highlights for them, and they will be returning everyone on the team.
Blake said highlights were starting the season at 8-1, beating no. 18 Wayne State on the road and seeing everyone grow throughout the season.
“Overall, I feel the season went well. Beating Wayne State was a really big deal,” sophomore middle blocker Kaitlin VanWinkle said. “We all contributed something to the team.”
VanWinkle said that with everyone coming back it will make the team that much stronger in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.
“I see bigger and better things for us,” she said.
With everyone returning, the Dragons look for another strong season next year.
“It’s nice that everyone will be back … we got a lot of experience in a lot of tight situations,” Blake said.
The Dragons finished the season at 15-13 overall and 8-12 in NSIC action.