VERMILLION – The South Dakota State volleyball team had its season come to an end Friday night as the No. 6 seeded Jackrabbits lost to No. 2 seeded South Dakota in five sets in the semifinals of the Summit League Tournament.
SDSU took the first set 25-20, but USD came back to win the next two sets 25-18 and 25-20. The Jacks trailed 24-21 in the fourth set, but scored next five points to come away with a 26-24 win and forced a fifth set.
The two teams traded points in the fifth set until USD went up 13-10. SDSU then went on a 4-0 run to take the lead a force a match point. The Jacks would have two more match points at 15-14 and 16-15, but were unable to get the final point and the Coyotes came away with a 18-16 win and won the match.
“I think everyone was pretty sad [after the loss],” said SDSU head coach Dan Georgalas. “We at times looked like we were going to lose and just kept finding ways to battle back and extend the game. We were down 24-20 in the fourth set and came back and scored six-straight to win. We’re down 13-10 in the fifth set and came back and found a way to have three match points that we unfortunately weren’t able to capitalize on.
“But everyone who was there in Vermillion saw a fantastic side of SDSU volleyball and resiliency and grit and determination really showed through. Everyone kind of took it really hard, but to me we had a fantastic season regardless of the ending. I think overall everyone was sad that [the season] ended, but there was a lot to celebrate this season.”
Georgalas added that his team made some errors down the stretch and that was why they weren’t able to get the final point.
“You know I haven’t watched the film yet, but we got really high error down the stretch. I think we had two service errors. We had a play where sent a free ball out of bounds. We made some really good plays to keep extending match, but I think at the end of fifth set, USD has two of the best left side players in the league and their tough to stop when we needed one more stop to win the game. Credit to [USD] because they were resilient as well, but we just couldn’t capitalize on the moments at the end of the match,” Georgalas said.
Crystal Burk led the Jacks with 19 kills and 14 digs. Chloe Stitt had 16 kills and 14 digs. Jasmine Weidemann had 26 assists and 14 digs. Carly Wedel had 22 assists and Tatum Pickar had 20 digs. Ella Thompson had nine kills and Elyse Winter had eight.
The Coyotes were led by Elizabeth Juhnke who had 23 kills and 19 digs. Madison Harms had 15 kills and Lolo Weideman had 20 digs. Madison Jurgens had 59 assists and Brooklyn Bollweg had 13 digs. Maddie Wiedenfield had nine kills and seven digs. Sami Slaughter had 10 kills.
The Jacks had 60 kills and 79 digs as a team. They had 54 assists, nine service aces and eight blocks. The ‘Yotes had 63 kills and 90 digs. They had 62 assists, 10 blocks and nine aces.
SDSU upset No. 3 seeded Denver in five sets on Friday night. Georgalas said his team believed in themselves even no one thought they would go as far as they did this season.
“… The whole tournament we just kept talking about believing in ourselves and how nothing should impact what we believe we were capable,” Georgalas said. “The upset against Denver was again another match where we weren’t the favorites in and we were down 2-1 and we found a way to stretch it to five and then a strong start in the fifth set was ultimately what gave us the cushion to win.
“At the end of the USD game we just kept talking about believing in ourselves and I give credit to our team because I don’t think anyone expected us to have match point to go to the conference tournament championship. We achieved so many things that were beyond our initial goals for the season. It’s tough to feel sad or sorry for what we accomplished because we took the program to new heights this season and that was the whole vision from the start.”
SDSU finished the season with an overall record of 19-12. It was the first time since 2012 that the Jacks had a winning record. This was just their third time playing in the Summit League Tournament and Georgalas said the win in the tournament will jump start success for his program.
“Our season theme this year was ignition, and we kind of sold a vision to our players that if you were capable of a special season they would provide a spark for the next five to 10 years,” Georgalas said. “I think our team bought into that vision and we succeeded in what we were trying to do. I think we changed the trajectory of the program. With the new facility coming, the new coaching staff, all of the positive momentum behind the season.
“Now the goal isn’t get to the conference tournament. Now our goals are 20-win seasons and playing December volleyball and playing in the NCAA Tournament. I give a lot of credit to our team and our season because the impact they had this season will propel the program forward in the years to come.”