Another weekend, another sweep

Garrett Dorneman

Questions abound as the Jacks continue to struggle in conference play.

The SDSU Jackrabbits volleyball team has been digging a hole for themselves as of late. After last weekend, they might be in over their heads.

The Jacks were dealt a pair of 3-0 losses at the hands of Summit League foes Western Illinois and IUPUI sending their record plummeting to 12-12 overall and 4-7 in the Summit League. SDSU sits in the Summit League cellar less than a month after beginning league play at 3-0 with an 11-4 overall record.

“We’ve hit a rough spot,” said head coach Phil McDaniel. “We’re learning to battle through tough times and unfortunately it’s taking us a little longer to bounce back.”

The weekend began with a trip to Macomb, Ill., on Friday for a rematch with the Western Illinois Leathernecks (10-10, 3-7), whom SDSU swept back on Sept. 17, and were promptly shutdown in the first two sets by scores of 25-19 and 25-17.

The third set was much more competitive, featuring 17 tie scores and six lead changes, but had the same outcome with the Jacks losing, 29-27.

Kelli Fiegen belted 13 kills to pace the Jacks offensively. Shay Birath, who reached the prestigious 1,000 dig plateau on Sep. 24th against Oakland, recorded 32 digs on Friday, the most in a three-set match in South Dakota State history. Birath broke the mark previously held by Samantha Pearson who notched 28 digs during a match with Louisiana-Lafayette in 2007.

The next night, the Jacks headed east to Indianapolis for a date with IUPUI whom SDSU defeated 3-2 in Brookings on Sept. 16. The rematch, like their rematch with Western Illinois, would be a completely different story, as the Jacks were thoroughly dismantled by scores of 25-21, 25-19 and 25-18 as IUPUI improved to 11-11 overall and 6-5 in the Summit. The Jaguars held the Jacks to a paltry .098 attack percentage and more than doubled their kill output with 53 total kills compared to just 26 for the Jacks. Fiegen paced the stale SDSU offense with eight kills.

With the weekend defeats, the Jackrabbits have now lost eight of their last nine contests; having been swept six times during the stretch. Much of SDSU’s recent lack of success can be attributed to an ineffective offense that once again underperformed, averaging just a .133 attack percentage for both games this weekend. McDaniel affirmed his team’s offensive woes in his comments, stating that the offense is struggling and needs to be more productive.

The Jacks will have a prime opportunity to get back on the winning track this weekend when they host a pair of Summit League foes. Oakland comes to Frost Arena on Friday and IPFW Saturday, both slated for 7 p.m. start times. McDaniel emphasized playing with emotion and energy as keys to winning future games.

“It’s a matter of playing with that emotion that got us to an 11-4 record that we haven’t seen in awhile. For us, it’s going to be focusing on coming out with high energy and making sure that we play at our speed and get back to playing our style of volleyball which has been absent for the past few games.”