Beavers vs. (2) Southwest Minnesota State • Oct. 12 • 7 p.m.
All-time series: Mustangs lead 55-31
About the Dragons (16-1, 8-1 NSIC)...
Southwest Minnesota State enters Friday’s match as the No. 2-ranked team in the nation and with a share of first place in the NSIC with an 8-1 conference record. Last week, the Mustangs snapped a school-record 15-match win streak for Winona State and extended their own win streak to nine matches with a 3-1 victory. SMSU has many of the conference’s top players, including setter Emilee Gutzmer, who leads the NSIC with 710 assists (13.15 per set), and league blocks-per-game leader (1.33, 72 total) Devin Diedrich. Mary Groth leads the team with 190 kills, while Rachel Westby has a team-high 238 digs. Southwest Minnesota State also has six players with 10 or more aces.
Bemidji State vs. Southwest Minnesota State...
BSU has played the Mustangs 86 times, prevailing 31 times. SMSU has won the last 17 meetings between the school including 13 straight-set victories dating back to a 3-1 BSU win on Oct. 18, 2003.
Beavers vs. Sioux Falls • Oct. 13 • 4 p.m.
All-time series: Beavers lead 2-0
About the Cougars (9-9, 1-8 NSIC)...
Like BSU, league newcomer Sioux Falls will enter the weekend with a 1-8 record in conference play. The Cougars entered NSIC action with an 8-1 record after going 3-1 at the Dakota Wesleyan Labor Day Classic and a 4-0 run at the Avila University Eagle Invite, but lost their first four league matches against highly-ranked teams. After getting back in the win column against St. Cloud on Sept. 22, the USF has dropped three consecutive matches heading into its Friday match at Minnesota, Crookston. Sioux Falls’ attack is led by setter Alexa Reed’s 635 assists and Emily Johnson’s 177 kills. The defense is anchored by Andrea Odbert’s 245 digs and Samantha Lovell’s 59 blocks.
Bemidji State vs. Sioux Falls...
The Beavers have only played Sioux Falls twice all-time heading into Saturday’s encounter. BSU won both matches against the Cougars before they joined the NSIC, 3-0 in 2010 and 3-1 in 2011.
This weekend, Bemidji State will welcome its highest-ranked opponent of the season and a conference newcomer to complete a four-match homestand. On Friday, the Beavers are holding a Dig Pink event Friday and are accepting donations for the American Cancer Society as they take on Southwest Minnesota State, who is tied first place in the NSIC with an 8-1 record (16-1 overall). The Mustangs will be BSU’s sixth opponent with recognition in the national polls and have won their last eight games in Bemidji. Sioux Falls entered the NSIC this year after a 15-win season as an independent program in 2011. Both teams enter the weekend with 1-8 marks in the conference and will play other opponents on Friday before their Saturday meeting, as USF will travel to Minnesota, Crookston.
Last Time Out
Last weekend, Bemidji State opened a four-match homestand by hosting NSIC foes MSU Moorhead and Northern State. With losses in both matches, BSU’s losing streak was extended to eight games. The Beavers fell 3-0 on Friday, losing in three sets for the fourth time at home, 25-13, 25-18, 25-16 and fell behind with 25-19 and 25-18 losses to Northern State on Saturday before forcing a fourth set with a 25-22 win in the third. NSU completed the 3-1 win by taking the last set 25-15.
On Friday, senior Bethany Thompson led the Beavers with nine kills and Courtney Volkmann picked up 21 assists on the night. Freshman Courtney Fox tallied a team-high seven digs for Bemidji State and added the team’s lone ace as she held serve for six consecutive points in the last set. MSUM’s Katy Ness, who entered the weekend with the national lead in digs, tacked on 10 more to her season total.
The Beavers picked up their play on Saturday, but were unable to contain Northern State in the first two sets. On the verge of falling 3-0 for the fifth consectutive match to open its home schedule, BSU came out flying in the third set and never trailed in a 25-22 victory. NSU finished off the win in the next set, 25-15. Bemidji State’s set win was its first at home in eight matches, dating back to 2011. Thompson tallied a match-high 16 kills and Fox led the Beavers with 12 digs, while Courtney Volkmann compiled 35 assists in the match. Fox and Volkmann also posted a pair of service aces apeice.
Playing at Home
Bemidji State played its first nine games of the season at neutral sites or on the road before falling to Minnesota, Crookston, Augustana, and Wayne State, MSU Moorhead, and Northern State at home. The Beavers have five more opportunities to pick up a home win in their final 12 matches of 2012. BSU’s third-set win against NSU was its first home set win of the season and first in eight home matches.
Two BSU Beaver volleyball players have landed themselves among the statistical leaders in the conference and in the nation. In the conference, Bethany Thompson is ranked second in kills per game at 4.05 (223 total) and second in points per game with 4.38 (241 total). Her kills per game put her at 17th in the nation and her points per set leave her at 24th. Courtney Volkmann is tied for second in the NSIC in service aces per game at 0.40 (22 total) and is 10th in assists per game with 9.22 (507 total).
Playing at Home
After posting a match-high with 16 kills against Northern State on Saturday, senior Bethany Thompson now has 223 on the year. With 869 kills in her career, the senior captain is 48 kills shy of cracking the program’s top-ten list in that category.
According the Week 5 AVCA Division II volleyball rankings, there are six ranked teams on the Beavers’ 2012 schedule. MSU Moorhead, who received votes in the poll, will be the fifth BSU opponent with recognition in the national rankings at the time of the match.
Out and About
Bemidji State has completed half of its 28-game schedule for 2012 and has completed most of its travel already. Seven of BSU’s 12 remaining games are at home and the Beavers will only leave the state of Minnesota when they travel to Northern State (Aberdeen, S.D.) for a rematch of last Saturday’s match on Nov. 9.
A Career Weekend
In three matches at the UMD Volleyball Classic, senior outside hitter Bethany Thompson beat or tied personal career bests in kills (24), digs (21), aces (4), blocks (3), and assists (3). Her performance, which saw her collect a double-double in all three games, earned her a spot on the UMD Classic all-tournament team as well as Beaver Pride Athlete of the Week honors (third of her career). Currently, with 844 career kills, Thompson is 73 shy of cracking the program’s top-ten list and just 156 short of 1,000.
The Beavers wrapped up nonconference play at the UMD Volleyball Classic on Sept. 7-8, beating Erskine and falling to Ferris State and Shippensburg. BSU finished non-NSIC play with a 2-5 record, bringing Wayne Chadwick’s nonconference record with the school to 11-12.
A Young Squad...
The Beavers entered the season with only two upperclassmen: Bethany Thompson, the lone senior and team captain, and Halee Staskivige, who sat out last season. The rest of the 14-player roster, which lost six letterwinners, includes six freshmen and six sophomores.
...But An Experienced Squad
Though the team only has one senior and one junior, the Beavers have brought back several players who played key roles on the team in 2011. Six members of the current team started at least one of last season’s 28 matches: Bethany Thompson (28), Rachel Craig (28), Kelsi Crawford (17), Kelly Niles (17), Courtney Volkmann (11), and Elissa Christensen (1). Thus far in the season, each of freshman has seen playing time in at least four of the 14 matches. Overall, the team returned eight letterwinners.