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Mount Mercy shakes off Waldorf

By Matt Oliver

FOREST CITY – The Waldorf College volleyball team came out fired up in front of a homecoming crowd, but Mount Mercy University escaped with the hard-fought victory on Friday.

The Mustangs (20-9) pulled out the win by scores of 25-17, 21-25, 25-19, 13-25, 15-12 in what proved to be a tug-of-war match from the start.

“It was a heartbreaking loss, but an incredible effort by the team,” Waldorf coach Paul Meyer said. “We just came up short.”

Freshman Kayla Budgins smashed 14 kills to lead the Warriors (5-21) and junior Abby Buehler added 12 kills to the attack. Sophomores Isabelle Rothbauer and Kaitlyn Monck provided nine kills apiece, junior Brianna Haugen connected for eight kills and junior Megan Perkins finished with six kills.

Junior Valerie Rivera and Monck put Waldorf’s offense in motion, dishing out 27 assists each. Rivera and Monck also tallied two service aces apiece.

Monck recorded a team-high 17 digs, sophomore Briley Sullivan collected 16 digs, Rivera turned in 15 digs and sophomore Erica Fee came away with 11 digs. Freshman Danica Cheney closed out the night with nine digs and Perkins contributed eight digs.

Both teams posted six total blocks. Buehler and Haugen fought at the net for three block assists each. Budgins and Perkins helped the defensive effort with two block assists apiece while Rothbauer and Monck also had block assists.

It was a tough opening set, but the Warriors rebounded and showed they came to compete.

“We did a great job of recovering after a kind of ugly first set,” Meyer said. “Everything was out of sync. We were not making adjustments and lacked the energy to compete with a team like Mount Mercy.”

Waldorf outhit Mount Mercy, racking up 58 kills and a .175 team hitting percentage. The Mustangs recorded a .158 hitting percentage behind 52 kills.

The second set was a battle from the start and the Warriors prevailed.

“We did a great job of adjusting, came out and gradually got into the flow of the match,” Meyer said. “It showed in our offense jumping from a .029 hitting percentage to .273. We finished the set very strong, controlling the tempo at the end.”

Working to earn every point, Mount Mercy came out on top in a tightly-contested third set.

“I thought in Set 3, Mount Mercy played very well, countering what we tried to run offensively and staying aggressive with their own offense,” Meyer said. “There were not any long runs. They simply pulled away little by little and we were not able to counter.”

The fourth set belonged to Waldorf. After racing to an early lead, the Warriors were in control. They ramped up their hitting to .333 and shut down the Mustangs, who were held to a .029 hitting effort.

“The ladies did a great job of responding to the third-set loss, dominating the fourth set from beginning to end,” Meyer said. “We totally took Mount Mercy out of their offense and capitalized on opportunities and hitting.”

In the deciding set, both teams had chances to secure the win. The Mustangs, who have defeated Waldorf three times this season, ultimately came out on top while being forced to earn every point down the stretch.

“It was a typical fifth set and was a back-and-forth battle,” Meyer said. “I thought we played well and Mount Mercy simply found a couple holes and come out with the close win.”

Friday marked the second straight grind-to-the-finish contest for the Warriors. They have stayed with tough competition every step of the way in the two losses.

“I am extremely proud of this team,” Meyer said. “For them to battle and fight with the energy level night after night shows the unbelievable character of this group. They stick together and compete for every point, no matter what the score is or their record.”

Waldorf takes on NCAA Division III’s Bethany Lutheran College (4-15) in Tuesday’s 7 p.m. contest at Mankato, Minn. The Warriors are aiming to make a push with the North Star Athletic Association (NSAA) Tournament less than a month away.

“The team will break out, get that big win and when they do, it will be exciting to be a part of and we will make a huge run these last few weeks going into the playoffs,” Meyer said.