BY MICHAEL HAMMOND | Yankton Press & Dakotan
Nov. 12, 2016 | USD 3, SDSU 0
VERMILLION, S.D. — The South Dakota Coyotes captured at least share of the Summit League championship with a 25-11, 25-15, 25-23, Senior Day sweep of the South Dakota State Jackrabbits at the Sanford Coyote Sports Center on Saturday in Vermillion.
With a conference record of 13-3, the Coyotes can only be tied for first place by Denver, who plays at North Dakota State today (Sunday). A Denver will splits the regular season title, and a Denver loss gives the USD the outright title and the one-seed in next week’s Summit League tournament.
“I am happy for our team and proud of the way they fought back from a not great week last week,” USD coach Leanne Williamson said. “Getting two wins, obviously being at home helps, with the conference championship on the line is huge. That shows a lot of heart and determination on a part of the team.”
The Coyotes put together streaks of six, five, and four points as they rolled through the first set to a 25-11 win. Senior Audrey Reeg collected four kills in the set, including on the final point, and freshman Elizabeth Loschen paced the Coyotes with six.
In the second set, SDSU built a 12-10 lead, but South Dakota fought back with an eight-straight points to start a 15-3 run to win the set 25-15. Again Reeg finished off the set, tallying her seventh kill of the match.
The Jackrabbits led late in the third set, but the Coyotes scored the final four points of the set to win the set and match 25-23. Loschen and senior Lindsey Brown each notched four kills.
“It was an incredible feeling getting that last point,” Williamson said. “I don’t really know how to describe it right now and it doesn’t quite feel real yet.”
The win marks the 12th in 13 games for USD against SDSU and the Coyotes now lead the all-time series 14-12 after sweeping the Jackrabbits in both matches this year.
“We were very prepared for South Dakota State and knew what to expect,” Williamson said. “I think our team after [Friday] knew that they could feel the conference championship in their fingertips and they really wanted it. They went out and fought hard and came away with the sweep.”
On Senior Day, USD got 10 kills from Reeg and eight from Brown, but it was the freshman Loschen that led the way with 14.
“[Loschen] had a great match and came out with a lot of confidence,” Williamson said. “When she made an error she came back and swung harder. That is what a true competitor does.”
As for Reeg, who leads the Coyotes in kills this year with 403, and Brown who’s .395 attacking percentage ranks first in the Summit League and in the top 20 in the nation, they will continue to guide South Dakota in their attempt to win the conference tournament and earn a berth in the NCAA tournament.
“Audrey and Lindsey have been our backbone all year and will continue to be for the rest of the season,” Williamson said. “They are the ones our team looks to. If it’s not scoring points, it’s for the leadership.”
The pair of seniors may only have gotten to play in the new SCSC for one year, but they steered the Coyotes to a 10-1 home record in the first season of the new arena. The only loss came against Big XII foe, Iowa State.
“I am happy our first year in the arena was a special one and I know it is going set the tone for years to come,” Brown said. “What I am going to remember most is just being part of a championship team. Our chemistry on and off the court has been so special.”
With the regular season finished the Coyotes will head to the Summit League volleyball tournament in Denver on Nov. 18-20 for a chance at making the NCAA tournament.
“We have worked so hard, even starting in the summer, it is great to see our hard work pay off,” Brown said. “We have beaten every team in the conference, so I think we have a good chance of winning the whole thing.”