Volleyball sweep caps big weekend

Shane Koob

Outside hitting and defense were the keys to a 3-0 victory over Western Illinois

One thing was clear after SDSU swept Western Illinois at Frost Arena last Saturday night: the Jacks will defend home court with everything they have.

“This is our home and teams should not look forward to coming here. It’s just going to be a battle,” Kelli Fiegen said.

After cruising to 25-16 and 25-18 victories in sets one and two, the Jacks found themselves in an up and down battle in the third set that featured eight tie scores, two lead changes and extra points to determine a winner.

The offense sputtered a bit in set three and the Jacks found themselves trailing 21-23. But back-to-back blocks by Ellyce Youngren and Kelli Fiegen tied things up at 23-23. Each team went back and forth, exchanging points and staving off defeat until the Jacks received a Bailey Philippot spike and a Kaitlin Klingemann kill to seal the set 29-27 – a three-set victory to remain undefeated at home on the season.

Philippot and Kelly Herrmann came through with some nice hitting from the outside, slamming 10 and nine kills, respectively. Four of Herrmann’s kills came in the high drama third set.

“Something we’ve really been stressing lately is that we’ve got to get some kills from the outside. We’ve got to be productive out there. Those two really stepped up tonight and we were able to get them in the system enough to get them some quality swings,” head coach Phil McDaniel said.

The win was a team effort. Six players registered kills with setter Lexi Fowler dishing out 40 assists in the match and appearing to have better timing with her hitters than the previous night against IUPUI.

McDaniel also mixed in a few new players in the rotation, as Margit Hansing, Kelsey Hansen and Ashley Bartek each played a set.

“It’s important to get them in … it’s not just a chance for them to see the court, it’s a chance for them to be productive,” McDaniel said.

After a solid weekend, Shay Birath was honored as the Summit League defensive player of the week for the third time in her career. Birath notched 47 digs and three service aces in wins over IUPUI and WIU. She currently leads the Summit League with 5.88 digs per set and only needs 36 more digs to reach 1,000 career digs.

With the sweep of WIU and five set victory over IUPUI, the Jacks sit at 2-0 in the conference and are now 10-4 overall in McDaniel’s first season as head coach. The 2-0 start in conference is especially important because the Jacks won’t be back to Frost Arena until Oct. 1 against NDSU.

“We’re feeling pretty strong. We still have a lot of tough competition in the conference with NDSU and USD, but we look forward to playing at their level and beating them,” Philippot said.