The St. Cloud State Husky volleyball team is in the middle of what could be their toughest stretch of the season. Last Saturday’s match against Southwest Minnesota State marked the first of five straight opponents ranked in the top 25 of the AVCA polls.
However, the Huskies have shown some considerable mental toughness, particularly this past weekend at Halenbeck Hall.
Coming into the weekend, the Huskies had failed to score more than 17 points in a set against a top 25 opponent this season, but Friday night, the Huskies exceeded that total in all three sets against #9 Wayne State despite falling in straight sets 25-18, 25-20 and 25-18.
Saturday, the Huskies hosted #20 Augustana and battled their way to a set one victory over the Vikings 25-23.
They would continue to push Augustana to the limit for the rest of the match but didn’t manage to pick up another set victory, falling in set 2 25-22, set 3 25-21, and set 4 25-23.
When asked after the game about his team’s performance, Husky head coach Chad Braegelmann had mixed feelings, saying “It felt good little stretches of time out there, and I’m proud of the way we fought and competed. There was a couple of points where I thought ‘Oh no, what’s going to happen here now,’ because this is a team that I don’t have a lot of experience with.”
“Overall I think we did a lot of things well,” he continued. “We had almost as many kills as them, our hitting percentages were pretty close, and it was just a few errors and free balls that we didn’t take care of. I think our heads are held high but it’s kind of frustrating because now we see that we can compete with them, now it’s a matter of being a to win a match.”
In-game adjustments had a large effect on the outcome of the match.
This is best illustrated by Sophie Jaskulske’s performance. Jaskulske recorded eight kills in the first set victory, four in the second set and just two for the rest of the match.
According to Braegelmann, this was a direct result of coaching changes made by Augustana head coach Dan Meske after the first set, saying “I’m actually a little jealous of him [Augustana Head Coach Dan Meske] because he’s got kind of the Midas Touch over there. He would put a couple of blocking specialists in and every time he did they would get a block. We did beat them in blocks for the match but they got the timely ones and we didn’t.”
The Huskies will host reigning NSIC Champions #5 Minnesota Duluth on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
The Bulldogs were ranked #1 in the AVCA polls up until last week and in Braegelmann’s opinion, it is in large part thanks to their hitters, “I think when you look at Duluth you look at their offensive firepower. They just hit the ball so hard, so often, that if they’re in system they are just brutal to try and defend. They’ve got weapons at both pins, their middles are good. We’ll have to do some work to get them out of system a little bit so we can get some easier free balls coming over to us. We won’t be able to dig out every single swing they get otherwise.”