Dragon volleyball all smiles after sweep of Mankato

By Kenny Buck
buckke@mnstate.edu

For the MSUM Dragon volleyball team, the season hasn’t gone quite as planned. With a 5-14 record in conference play and a 10-17 record overall, the Dragons took the court at Nemzek against Minnesota State University, Mankato Saturday night. The Mavericks, at 16-10 with playoff aspirations, ran into a Dragon team with nothing to lose on parents’ night.
The first set began as a back-and- forth affair, but the Dragons quickly pulled away from the Mavericks to take the first set 25-17. Senior Sam Sullivan had two aces in the first set and said from the beginning the Dragons were playing with retribution on their minds.
“Earlier in the season we lost to them in five (sets) which was a little disappointing, so we wanted to come out and get that revenge from them and end the season on a good note,” Sullivan said.
The Dragons rolled against the Mavericks by taking the second set 25-17 and finishing off Mankato 25-15 in the final set that was never close. Junior middle blocker Abby Wolpern led the Dragons with 11 kills to go along with three blocks. Setters Casie Baer and Sullivan led the way for the Dragons with 33 assists between them. From the beginning, the Dragons set the tone of the match with great play from Sullivan and first team All-Conference middle blocker Kaitlin VanWinkle.
The junior from Farmington, Minn., had ten kills against the Mavericks including the game winning points in all three sets. Despite the disappointing season, after Saturday’s convincing win against Mankato, VanWinkle is already looking forward to next season.
“It gets us really excited for next year because we know when we can come together and play like that we’ll be able to compete with all the teams in the conference,” VanWinkle said. Although she’s excited for next year’s team, VanWinkle is going to miss their two seniors Sam Sullivan and Maggie Gruber.
“It’s definitely going to be different now that our seniors are gone,” VanWinkle said. “They had a big impact on the team, but hopefully we can find some younger girls that can try to fill their shoes.”
As for Sullivan, this was the last game of her career as a Dragon and says it was a great way to go out in her senior year.
“It was probably the best we’ve played all season, so it’s great to end the career on that,” Sullivan said.
“As a team we always came into practice working hard, and I don’t think it always showed in matches but I think we came out in the last match today and it definitely showed.”
VanWinkle agrees that if the team keeps working as hard as they have been, the results will show in the win column next year.
“We didn’t get as many W’s as we would’ve liked,” VanWinkle said, “I think that if we just keep doing the same thing we’ll have success next year.”

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