BY MICHAEL HAMMOND | Yankton Press & Dakotan
Nov. 11, 2016 | USD 3, Denver 2
VERMILLION, S.D. — The South Dakota Coyotes kept their Summit League volleyball title hopes alive by outlasting the Denver Pioneers 25-18, 24-26, 25-23, 21-25, 15-13, in the Sanford Coyote Sports Center on Friday in Vermillion.
In a matchup of the top two teams in the conference, the Coyote win sets up a situation where they can claim at least a share of the conference championship with a win over South Dakota State today (Saturday) in the SCSC.
“It is something that our girls have been working for all year,” Coyotes’ coach Leanne Williamson said. “We have to celebrate tonight, but understand that we are not done.
“We have to play a State team that is playing well in the second half of the conference season and can beat anyone on any given night.”
The Coyotes go going Friday with a 25-18 first set win with Audrey Reeg picking up five of her game-high 24 kills. The set stayed close the entire way, until South Dakota pulled away late.
USD held a four-point lead late in the second set, but the Pioneers battled back with a 4-0 run to take a 22-21 lead en route to a 26-24 second set win. Denver played five players that were 6-foot-1 or taller and blocked got seven of their 17 blocks in the second set. The Coyotes tried to stay true as they fought through the Pioneer blockers.
“We had understand the moments where we could really swing and the moments we had to swing, but swing high and hard,” Williamson said. “I think trying to be smart in those situations if you can’t necessarily hit down at that moment helped.”
South Dakota fought around the block in the 25-23 third set win and posted their highest attacking percentage of the match with a .275 mark. Reeg collected seven kills and Elizabeth Loschen added four as the Coyotes won another close set.
Denver played through the pressure in the fourth as the teams traded points back and forth with the Pioneers holding onto a steady lead. The Coyotes tied it up at 17, but the Pioneers went on to take the set 25-21 on one of Moni Corrujedo’s team-high 13 kills.
In the fifth, the Coyotes stormed out to a 10-5 lead, before Denver charged back with five-straight points to tie the game. USD finished off the set and the match 15-13, getting two kills from Reeg and one each from Rachel Schmidt and Meagen Kearns. Williams told her team to relax and remember what they had talked about before the game in a timeout after Denver tied the set.
“I told them this is what we wanted,” Williamson said. “We wanted a tough set and we wanted a battle.”
With a close battle for the win, Williamson pointed to the guts of her team as a reason why they came out on top.
“Close sets, when it’s that tight, in a game like that on the line, and for us to continue to push, fight, and score points, that shows me that this team has a lot of guts,” Williamson said. “They know what they are fighting for and are willing to put themselves on the line and risk failure to see the result in the end.”
Having an offensive and defensive weapon at setter in Brittany Jessen (nine kills, 57 assists, and 17 digs) is a big key for the Coyotes as they work towards winning the Summit League.
“A lot of setters aren’t able to score, don’t score, or don’t even attempt to, so the fact that the other team has to pay attention to her as well makes it more difficult to defend us,” Williamson said. “I is like having another hitter on the floor sometimes.”
Defensively, the Coyotes were led by libero, Lauren Mattison, who helped slow down Denver’s trio of Corrujedo (13 kills), Kayla Principato (12), and Noal Basey (11) with a team-high 27 digs. Jessen and Anne Rasmussen each added 17 digs, Hayley Dotseth added 14, and Reeg recorded 12.
“My blockers put me in really good spots and I couldn’t do it without my teammates,” Mattison said. “Day-in and day-out, it’s what we work on in practice, and it just becomes natural to a certain point.”
Now South Dakota is set for a rivalry matchup with SDSU with a win guaranteeing at least a share of the Summit League regular season championship. With a win and a Denver loss to North Dakota State in Fargo, North Dakota, the Coyotes will stand alone as Summit League champs.
“Since it is a rivalry game it is going to be intense,” Mattison said. “They will come and play their best, but we also know that and we are going to play our best.
“I think that it is going to be a really fun game and really exciting, but I have high hopes for it.”