Up-and-down season continues on way to Summit League tournament

Shane Koob

Shane KoobSportswriter

After an up and down first half of the season, the Jackrabbit Volleyball team is looking to learn from mistakes and build on successes for a Summit League Tournament run. The Jacks are also looking forward to a few more home matches, as they only played four out of 11 conference matches at home.

“The travel time makes things tough and it can be exhausting, but overall I think we’ve been able to do some good things,” said SDSU head coach Nanabah Allison-Brewer.

With a 5-6 record in the Summit League (9-11 overall), the Jacks stand in sixth place. Only the top four teams make the Summit League Tournament – held in Fargo, N.D. this year – so the Jacks are looking to make up some ground over the last half of the season.

The team took a step in the right direction over the weekend as they defeated fifth place Oakland (11-11, 6-5) in five sets. Leading the Jacks was sophomore Kelli Fiegen, who landed a career high 21 kills in the match. Fiegen also tallied four solo blocks and two block assists on the night. Also coming up big was junior Ellyce Youngren, who pounded 16 kills in the Jackrabbit victory.

“Certain teams have one player that really stands out, but we feel like we have great depth on our team, including two strong middles in Kaitlin Klingemann and Kelli Fiegen,” Allison-Brewer said.

Allison-Brewer spoke to how other teams in the conference are starting to recognize the presence of Klingemann and Fiegen. Youngren and senior Thyele Rechatiko also received praise. Youngren gives the Jacks flexibility, being able to land kills and block, as well as play good defense. Rechatiko’s versatility has also been beneficial to the Jackrabbit’s offensive attack with a keen ability to keep opposing defenses guessing.

That core group of players has come together to stay competitive in conference play. Last Friday on the road, the Jacks took league-leading Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne to five sets. The Jacks lost the match 3-2, but in sets two, three, and four, the final scores went 25-23,25-23, and 23-25.

“This was a great weekend to learn and tosee how strong of a team we are,” Allison-Brewer said. “We had moments of greatness, and we also had moments that showed the areas we need to improve on (against IPFW).”

Looking at the remaining schedule, the Jacks have their eyes at the top of the conference, and they’ll have most of their opponents at home. This weekend the Jacks take on Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and Western Illinois. Then the team will head out west to Cedar City, Utah, to take on Southern Utah on Oct. 28. On Oct. 30, the Jacks will face University Missouri-Kansas City in Kansas City, Mo. to close out play in the month of October.

Frost Arena will see a heavy dose of volleyball in November, highlighted by some big rivalries. The Jacks will face school rivals USD and NDSU, and then close out the month against Oral Roberts and Centenary.

“It’s big to be able to be home and have the crowd that we have and utilize their support to get us through and get us to Fargo,” Allison-Brewer said.

She also pointed out some of the keys to success down the stretch for the team are learning from mistakes made in the first half of the season, as well as not trying to do too much. She also said the team is starting to buy into the style of play expected from their coaches.

“Every match we are maturing so much as players, in terms of knowledge of the game and seeing the bigger picture and seeing how everything fits,” she said

The schedule will remain tough in the second half of the season for the Jackrabbits, but if things come together, this team has a chance to make a Summit League Tournament bid.

“We have even more confidence going in and we have a team that can do really great things. We feel we are a team that belongs at the top, so it’s time to do the little things to achieve that,” Allison-Brewer said.