Southern road trip brings mixed results

Marcus Traxler

Marcus TraxlerSportswriter

The SDSU volleyball team headed south last weekend to play the only two private schools in the Summit League, Centenary and Oral Roberts. The Jackrabbits split the two game trip with a win Friday at Centenary before falling to Oral Roberts on Sunday. The Jacks are now 6-7 overall and 2-3 in league play.

“It’s a tough trip because it’s a long haul and it’s also kind of a good trip because where the girls get bond and build camaraderie off the court,” said SDSU head coach Nanabah Allison-Brewer.

The Jacks flexed their muscles in a decisive victory over Centenary in Shreveport, La., sweeping the Ladies, 3-0. Game scores were 25-18, 25-16, 25-13.

SDSU was far more efficient on the attack than the Ladies, who made 27 errors. The Jacks out-hit Centenary, .316 percent to .036 percent on the attack.

“We were able to turn those errors into more runs and leads and working on, once we get the ball back on a side out, building that lead and making them have to work harder,” said sophomore middle Kelli Fiegen.

Ellyce Youngren had 10 kills for the Jacks and Fiegen added 8 kills. Thyele Rechatiko passed out 28 assists.

The Jackrabbit defense also excelled with nine players contributing digs, led by nine each from Emily Palmer and Shay Birath.

Centenary’s Stevie Hurlbirt was a bright spot for the Ladies, who had a game-high 15 kills.

“We were able to work on a lot of our offense and connect with our middles and incorporate our schemes. I thought we did a great job of executing and finding a good offensive rhythm and playing consistent throughout,” Allison-Brewer said.

A balanced attack was the key for Oral Roberts as the Eagles edged the Jackrabbits, 3-1 in Tulsa, Okla. Game scores were 25-27, 18-25, 25-23, 22-25.

“They did some things that we weren’t expecting from them but we were able to make some adjustments. Offensively, we made good connections and worked on our hitting percentage,” said coach Allison-Brewer.

SDSU hit their season-high on the attack, but ORU held the advantage in that category, .364 percent to .321 percent.

“After the Fargo weekend, we came back to practice and we saw that as a weakness and we really worked on connecting our setters with our different hitters and tried to implement it,” said junior hitter Ellyce Youngren.

Both Fiegen and Youngren contributed 13 kills and Kaitlin Klingemann added 11 for the Jackrabbits. Rechatiko had 34 set assists for SDSU.

Tatum Fredeen was one of four Eagles who had double-digit kills with 18 kills, followed closely Serena Cate adding 17 and Olivia Ophus with 12. Laura Taylor had her first career triple-double, with 12 kills and 10 digs to go along with her 50 set assists.

“We weren’t adjusting our block fast enough and that was slowing down our back row. I think once we made some changes, we started to get on a roll and won that third set,” Fiegan said.

Oral Roberts held the advantage in digs, 62-44, which is an aspect that Allison-Brewer noted was important to the outcome.

“Defensively, we were out-dug by ORU, which is a good team, but that is something we need to continuously improve on and become better at and give us more opportunities offensively also being in that match as well. Improving our transitions into our offensive game is also something we really want to work on.”

SDSU has an important weekend looming against the two squads ahead of them in the Summit League, Oakland and IPFW, Friday and Saturday respectively, at Frost Arena. The Jacks are in a tie for sixth place in the conference – the Grizzlies and Mastodons are tied for fourth place.

“This is the weekend where we need to get on top, take care of business, we’re at home and that’s an advantage. We need to go 2-0 and move back up the standings,” Youngren said.

“It’s a big weekend. We feel that we have the ability to be top in the league and a big component of that is defending at home,” Allison-Brewer said. “We have a couple good teams coming in and we just need to be confident in what we have and our system. We have a lot of talent on our squad, so we feel very confident in this weekend’s games as long as we execute.”