On Wednesday night, the University of Minnesota, Morris volleyball team opened the 2009 season with a resounding 3-0 sweep of Macalester College.
Led by aggressive and smart hitting from newcomers Jordan Olerud, Megan Theis and Brita Humphrey, and a hustling defense led by libero Colleen Hermes, the Cougars maintained control of all three games, winning 25-16, 25-23, and 25-19.
After the decisive first game when the Scots never threatened, the Cougars stumbled early in games two and three, falling behind through a combination of hitting errors and some miscommunication. It was at this point in the match head coach Chad Braegelmann realized how much improved the Cougars were this season.
"Last year when we fell behind we may have questioned ourselves and folded. And in those situations it may have been because we felt the other team was simply outplaying us. But tonight, we were making mistakes, so I knew we could fix the situation and improve, which we did," Braegelmann said. "This is a tribute to the resolve of our veterans and the energy our new players have brought to the team."
Senior captain Colleen Hermes said the team's overall intelligence helped them fight back against Macalester's rallies.
"We did a good job, I think, switching up our service reception, so when they scored two points in a row, we'd try something new. That made them work harder for points," Hermes said.
Braegelmann was pleased with his unit as a whole, particularly for its passing and defense. He singled out freshman Allie Humphrey for her all-around performance.
"[Allie] made few hitting errors and used smart placement on her attacks. At the net, she did a great job closing the block and allowing us to play defense around her," he said.
Statistically, the Cougars were led by Humphrey with 12 kills. Natalie Thomas and Sam Pfannenstein handed out 23 and 16 assists respectively. And Hermes and Olerud recorded team highs in digs (19 and 15).
Though pleased with the performance, Braegelmann said the team needs to continue working on court communication, and setters and hitters connecting better.
"Through preseason, when we're tired and sore, we limit those repetitions. We'll get stronger in the coming weeks," he said.
This weekend the Cougar file onto the bus for an eight-hour ride to Milwaukee where they will play four matches in two days in the Wisconsin Lutheran tournament.
After the weekend tournament, the volleyball team plays a midweek match at Valley City State before returning to the P.E. Center for a pair of games against Mt. Marty and York College on Friday, Sept. 11.