The University of Minnesota, Morris volleyball team dropped four matches in the two-day St. Benedict's tournament in St. Joseph.
On the first day, the Cougars lost to Hamline and St. Catherine's.
The Saturday matches included St. Olaf's and tournament host, St. Ben's.
Coming out of a weekend with four match losses, each one a 3-0 sweep, you might not expect to hear this: "We were fantastic in spots this weekend."
Those words came from head coach Chad Braegelmann who, despite the tough losses, had only positive things to say about his team after the St. Benedict's tournament.
St. Catherine 3
In the first match the Cougars lost three straight to Hamline University, each set tightly contested. In the nightcap, they fell to St. Catherine's, again in three straight, dropping the first set 21-11, but battling back in sets two and three, 25-21 and 25-17.
Braegelmann remained upbeat after the night.
"I'm happy with the way we competed. Though we lost two matches in six sets, every set but one was very close. I'm proud of that," he said.
Braegelmann was also pleased with the offensive execution.
"We passed very well tonight. This week we worked on speeding up the offense and I think our setters and hitters did an excellent job connecting and mixing things up."
Against Hamline Jordan Olerud led the Cougars with eight kills. Allie Humphrey recorded six and Megan Theis had five.
Natalie Thomas led the team with 18 assists. Sam Pfannenstein had 14 assists.
Colleen Hermes recorded 13 digs to lead the team, while Lindsay Jacobson added 10.
Versus St. Catherine Theis had six kills, while Olerud and Humphrey recorded five apiece.
Thomas recorded 15 assists and Pfannenstein had 12.
Jacobson led the Cougars with 10 digs and Pfannenstein added eight.
St. Olaf 3
St. Benedict 3
Against the Oles, Morris tried a few different lineups but "played flat" in stretches, falling behind early in games, unable to catch up. It's an issue that Braegelmann and his team continue to struggle with.
"We're still looking to find consistent effort. We let our intensity and work drag a bit and then we have to come back."
The Oles took the match 25-16, 25-15, 25-18.
The Cougars were paced by Olerud with nine kills and Thomas who had 21 assists.
The afternoon match paired the Cougars against St. Benedict, a nationally-ranked division III team filled with junior and senior players.
In the first two sets, the Cougars played the Blazers tightly, dropping the first match 25-22 and the second 26-24. Within these sets Braegelmann saw "the best volleyball we've played in the last year and a half."
"We were competitive with St. Ben's and gave ourselves a chance to win at the end. That's the best you can hope for."
In the second set, the Cougars scored 20 of their 24 points on serve, which not only underscores their excellent play, but also demonstrates how good St. Ben's was in the set, giving away only four points to UMM.
Jacobson was named to the all-tournament team for her standout defensive play. Braegelmann also singled out Olerud, and fellow junior college transfer, Theis for their excellent play.
Moving into conference play this week with a 4-8 record, Braegelmann put things in perspective for his team.
"We're going to work harder and the harder you work the better you play, the more luck you end up having. Of course, we're not happy being 0-4 for the weekend, but we saw some really good play out of our team."
In the first of two matches at North Central University in Minneapolis, the Cougar volleyball team faced NAIA foe Waldorf College.
The Cougars struggled out of the gate in the first set, falling behind by several points. They rallied late, coming within a few points, but the effort left them out of gas and the Warriors took the set 27-25.
"We're still struggling with playing hard right at the start of a game. That first set was an example. We just didn't have enough to come all the way back," said Braegelmann.
The Cougars took the second set 25-23. They never trailed.
Waldorf came back in sets three and four. According to Braegelmann, the Cougars had trouble finding rhythm in those sets. He attributed that to Waldorf's play.
"We didn't play worse in [sets] three and four. Waldorf's defense improved each set," he said.
Overall, Braegelmann was pleased with his team's serving during the Waldorf match.
"They mixed up pace on serves, they aimed for corners, and they split gaps in the Waldorf formations. It worked for us against them."
North Central 0
In the second match, the Cougars swept hosts North Central. The easy win enabled Braegelmann to use his entire bench and rest some starters.
"We had more depth and our attacks were better. Overall, we played really well," he said.
The Cougars were led on offense by Justine Banken who recorded a season-high 12 kills with only one error on 17 attacks.
The volleyball team is home this weekend for three matches. They host Northwestern College on Friday night, and Crown and Trinity Bible College on Saturday.