The University of Minnesota, Morris volleyball team finished the regular season winning four straight. Coach Chad Braegelmann notched his 199th and 200th career victories, guiding UMM to its first 20-win season since 2003.
At 20-11 overall and 11-3 in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference, the Cougars gained a share of second place in the final regular-season standings, as Northwestern lost Saturday to UMAC-leading St. Scholastica - who finished their league slate undefeated.
As the regular season wrapped up, the Cougars won their last eight matches, with just one loss in their last 14.
The Cougars will now turn their attention to the Eagles, as they meet for a third time Wednesday in St. Paul. The winner will advance to the UMAC Championship match on Saturday, Nov. 6.
With their tie to Northwestern in the final standings, tie breakers were used to determine to playoff host, and since each team won 3-0 on their home floor, total points became the criteria, giving Northwestern the edge.
St. Scholastica wrapped up the regular season UMAC title.
On the road Oct. 26, the Cougars swept Presentation College.
After claiming a 25-19 and a 25-22 win in the first and second sets, respectively, the Cougars cruised to the sweep with a 25-13 win in the third. UMM hit a .412 in the third set, knocking down 17 kills while making just three errors.
The Cougars closed the match by winning eight of the final 10 points, with a kill from Kaylie Clark as the match winner. The kill was the seventh for Clark, placing her among the team leaders, while her 14 digs were a match high.
Jordan Olerud matched her with 14 digs, and led the Cougars with 11 kills to finish with a double-double. Steph Schmiesing added 10 kills while Allie Humphrey added eight.
Humphrey hit a team-high .438, making just one error in her 16 attempts.
In the opening set win the Cougars used a seven-point run to close out the 25-19 win, answering a four-point rally from Presentation that brought the Saints within one. In the second set the Cougars hit their low for the night, just .107, while making 10 errors, but overcame the mistakes with a four-point rally late to seal the set.
Martin Luther 2
Friday at home, the Cougars rallied from a two-sets-to-none deficit to defeat Martin Luther in five.
UMM was on the brink of being swept in the third set, down 23-19, but rallied behind the perfect serving of Nichelle Grage to score six straight points for a 25-23 win. Comebacks were the theme of the night for the Cougars and after a 25-21 win in the fourth set, the Cougars found themselves down 8-1 to start the fifth. The Cougars went on a 14-3 scoring run to close the match and win their sixth straight.
This marked the second time this season that the Cougars have won six straight matches, and also extended their unblemished mark in five-set matches to 5-0.
Despite going down early in the fifth, the Cougars made just one error in the set - their best mark of the match - and hit a match-high .391 in the deciding set. UMM hit .250 in their come-from-behind third set win as well as .167 in the fourth, with all three marks equaling or bettering the best single-set tally from Martin Luther.
Martin Luther was held to just a .095 hitting percentage for the match, making 34 errors compared to 52 kills. The Knights hit over .150 just once and in the fourth were held to a -.049 tally with eight errors against just six kills.
In each of the final three sets the Cougars overcame at least a four-point deficit before earning the win, but also had at least one stretch of five straight points as well.
Three players finished in double figures for kills led by Megan Theis who surpassed 1,000 for her career. With the third kill of the match, Theis joined the 1,000-kill club, on her way to 14 overall and a .361 hitting percentage.
Clark joined Theis with 14, with Schmiesing not far behind with 13.
Natalie Thomas dished out 46 assists, while also chalking up 14 digs. Clark added a team-high 18 digs to her effort, while Brita Humphrey and Olerud added 16 and 15 digs, respectively.
Olerud was honored before the match as she joined the 1,000-kill club last week in the Cougars' win over Coe. Both her and Thies received commemorative game balls from their coaches and teammates.
The Cougars won twice Saturday, closing the regular season with a 3-0 win over Bethany Lutheran and a 3-1 win over Dakota Wesleyan.
In the win over Bethany Lutheran, Megan Theis led the way with 10 kills, and in the win over Dakota Wesleyan, Olerud sat near the top with 12.
The Cougars made quick work of Bethany Lutheran, winning 25-16, 25-13, and 25-18. If not for a second set slip up against a high powered Dakota Wesleyan team, the Cougars could have made it out in straight sets. They finished off the Tigers by scores of 25-20, 21-25, 25-22, and 25-19.
Against Bethany Lutheran, the Cougars hit .314 and .367 in the first two sets with a combined five attack errors.
They also had one of their best sets in the opener against Dakota Wesleyan, hitting .256 with just four errors.
Along with Olerud and Theis, Schmiesing led all players with 22 total kills, hitting .353 in the win over Bethany Lutheran. Olerud had 16 and Theis had 19. Thomas was her usual efficient self, handing out 80 assists in the two matches, keeping the Cougars' offense clicking.