Photo by Nicole Girgen From left, Paige Christopher, Madison Rizner, and Kate Masberg during an earlier game against University of Minnesota-Duluth.
Winona State University (WSU) attempted to do something it hadn’t done in the past 20 years on Friday afternoon at the Sanford Pentagon – beat Concordia-St. Paul twice in one season. And try as the Warriors did, their upset bid in the opening round of the NSIC Volleyball Tournament was denied in five sets by the Golden Bears.
No. 8 (#3) CSP defeated No. 15 (#6) WSU by set scores of 20-25, 25-23, 15-25, 25-18, and 16-14 as regulation in the final game wasn’t even enough between the two evenly-matched squads battling to reaching the NSIC Semifinals.
The Warriors dominated set three to take a 2-1 match lead with .346 hitting percentage in a 10-point win. Winona State floored 12 kills compared to just three errors while holding the Golden Bears to a .000 attacking clip for the second time in three games.
Winona State was unable to maintain its offensive efficiency in set four that had the Warriors stuffed at the net four times while committing a match-high seven attacking errors.
In the win-or-go-home fifth set, Winona State raced out to a 4-1 lead and held its advantage until a three-point CSP run gave the Golden Bears an 8-7 edge. The race to the finish line was on from there as the fiercely competitive teams continued to trade blows in the heavyweight matchup.
The score was tied on four occasions until the final point finally dropped for CSP. A kill by Madison Larson broke an 11-11 deadlock ahead of a Golden Bear error to give the Warriors a 13-11 advantage before CSP rattled off three straight points for a 14-13 lead. Another Golden Bear miscue evened the score one last time at 14-all, but CSP found its rhythm and downed its final two attacks to prevail victoriously.
Winona State owned a slight 10-9 edge in blocks on Friday, recording four in the opening set to force 10 CSP errors and take an early 1-0 match lead.
The Warriors had a chance to take a commanding 2-0 lead when they led 18-13 in set two. Unfortunately, Winona State could not put away the Golden Bears, who used a 10-4 scoring run to escape the Warriors’ potential strangle hold and set up the incredible back-and-forth match that ensued and ultimately ended in heartbreak for Winona State.
Larson paced WSU with 16 kills in the loss. The freshman, filling in the starting lineup for Paige Christopher, who was injured in the Warriors’ final practice before departing for Sioux Falls on Wednesday, recorded her highest kill total since drilling a career-best 23 two months ago.
CSP successfully contained Megan Flom to nine kills on 32 swings while Kate Masberg and Madison Rizner floored eight apiece. Flom and Rizner patrolled the net with five blocks each.
Bre Maloney set the offense with 41 assists and added 16 digs as Cori Meyers matched her career high with a team-best 17 digs.
The loss likely puts an end to Winona State’s season at 21-8, but the Warriors will hold out hope for an at-large bid to the NCAA Regional Tournament when the qualifying field is announced on Sunday at 6:30 p.m.