Alison-Brewer leads Jacks into tournament play for the first time

Shane Koob

Shane KoobSportswriter

For the first time since 2007, the Jackrabbits will play in the Summit League tournament and SDSU will do so on a roll against conference foes.

With their win over Centenary Nov. 13 at Frost Arena, the Jackrabbit volleyball team closed out their regular season by winning eight straight conference matches and securing the fourth and final spot in the Summit League Tournament this weekend in Fargo, ND.

SDSU’s eight match conference win streak began by defeating Oakland on the road on Oct. 16. In their final push over the last month, the Jacks had key victories over Southern Utah on the road, along with wins against NDSU and Oral Roberts at home.

Leading the offensive attack for the Jackrabbits this season were junior Ellyce Youngren and sophomore Kelli Fiegen. Youngren finished the regular season with 354 kills and played in all 118 sets the team played. While averaging three kills per set, Youngren also chipped in 58 total blocks and led the team with 35 serving aces.

Fiegen, recently named the Summit League’s Female Athlete of the Month for October, led the Jacks with a .390 attack percentage. She also led the team in blocks, tallying 137 in 113 sets played. Fiegen was right on pace with Youngren in the kill category, as she averaged just over three kills per set, and finished with 348 on the season.

The defense was probably the Jacks’ strong point throughout the season, and that defense was lead by sophomore Shay Birath. The Jackrabbit libero played in all 118 sets and finished the season with 541 digs.

Senior Thyele Rechatiko, the Jacks’ setter, was a leader on the court all season long and she had the duties of distributing the ball between SDSU’s great attackers. She played in 114 sets and tallied 1,160 assists. The do-it-all senior also had 303 digs, 105 kills, 33 total blocks and 20 service aces. Another asset Rechatiko brings to the team is her “pesky” hitting because of her ability to find the open spots on the floor.

In multiple interviews during the last half of the season, head coach Nanabah Allison-Brewer talked about how the team was finally starting to bring the offense and defense together. Both sides were definitely shining brightly throughout the final month of the season, and the Jacks now find themselves right where they wanted to be: in the conference tournament.

The team has shown that they have the talent to compete with top-caliber schools in the conference. By winning the last eight conference matches, SDSU has achieved one of their goals by qualifying for the league tournament.

Now the question is whether the Jacks can keep up the pace this weekend in Fargo. SDSU will be facing number one seed IPFW, who earned the regular season conference title with a 14-4 record.

The Jackrabbits lost both matches against IPFW this season. SDSU lost in three sets in the first matchup back on Oct. 2 and took the Mastadons to five sets on the road on Oct. 15. The latter was a match that saw 33 tie scores and 14 lead changes.

The match on Nov. 19 should be a good one, especially with the progress the Jacks have made over the course of the season. If the team can stay relaxed and stay sharp, they could find themselves playing on Nov. 20 for the Summit League Championship against either NDSU or Southern Utah.