Jackrabbits drop two Summit League foes at home

Travis Kriens

Travis Kriens

The Jacks ended a four-match home losing streak with a four-set win over Southern Utah.

Maturity seemed to be a big part of the four-set win on Oct. 30 for the young SDSU women’s volleyball team over Southern Utah (25-17, 25-17, 24-26, 25-21).

Overall, the Jacks recorded 66 points to the Thunderbirds’ 73, but the difference was the 45 Southern Utah errors, including 13 on serves, to SDSU’s 26.

“We have been trying to come together as a team again,” said outside hitter Fiona Jones, who led SDSU with 16 kills and a match-high 19 digs. “Our big thing is leadership, and everyone stepped up tonight, did their part and took care of their jobs.”

During the third set in which SUU managed to win 26-24, they hit a match-high .467 (17-3-30) compared to the Jacks’ match-high hitting percentage of .375 (16-4-32).

“We just didn’t follow through and finish,” Jones said. “We let down a little bit.”

SDSU held a 24-20 advantage late in the third set and had three chances to close the match out. However, Jazmine Ma’afala closed the match with four kills to give the Thunderbirds the 26-24 victory.

Ma’afala and teammate Analaine Pelaez tied for the game high with 21 kills each.

The Jacks would capitalize in the fourth set with a 7-2 run after being down 18-19.

“I felt that we responded in the fourth set,” said head coach Nanabah Allison-Brewer. “We were able to get into the 20s and were able to take control, take advantage of it and go forward. I was glad that we finally stepped up instead of what we did last time. We just went ahead and pushed all the way through. The feeling in the air was a lot different towards the last four points than it was in the third set.”

In the previous matchup at Southern Utah, who revived their volleyball program after 20 years, the Jacks won a tough five-set battle in which they dropped the first two sets 26-24.

“I was very proud of their intensity,” said Allison-Brewer when comparing the two matches. “They came out and wanted to show that we are on a mission this weekend. We determine where we go and how we end up in the conference. The defensive game picked up, and they enjoyed it. Defense drives our team.”

The common theme all season long for Allison-Brewer has been energy and not letting it drop even when the other team goes on a run.

“The biggest thing is always the energy part. That’s one thing that no one can take away from you. If your skill is not there, still have confidence, still have energy. Give all that you can to your team, and the game will pay you back. I felt at times that when people were struggling, the game did pay them back. They stayed consistent and never let down their energy, and that is really important.”

The volleyball team cruised to an easy three-set sweep over the Kangaroos.

A three-set win over UMKC (10-15, 6-8) on Halloween completed a weekend sweep of Summit League opponents and put the SDSU women’s volleyball team within striking distance of postseason play.

After a close first-set win, 25-23, the Jacks would turn it on in the final two sets with 25-19 and 25-14 wins.

“We started off a little bit sluggish,” said head coach Nanabah Allison-Brewer. “We weren’t the same team that played last night. We are still finding that killer instinct and understanding what it means and feels like to close a team out.”

It was senior night at Frost Arena as lone senior Stacey Wernert, who finished with 20 digs, was honored.

“My goal was just to go out there and enjoy my last game,” said Wernert. “I definitely enjoyed it with a win.

“It’s sad,” said Wernert when asked about her last home match. “I am going to miss it playing here. It’s been an exciting four years. This is a great crowd to play in front of.”

With the young teams that the Jacks have had over the past couple of seasons – 22 of the 30 players on the roster over the last two seasons were either freshmen or sophomores – Allison-Brewer said that Wernert’s contribution has been important all season long.

“She’s been a great leader this entire year,” she said. “Tonight was another night that demonstrated her ability to really help us defensively. Do what you do, and do it well. Enjoy and love it, and she has truly embraced and understands how effective she can be.”

Ellyce Youngren and Fiona Jones tied for the game high in kills with 12, while setter Thyele Rechatiko played the entire match and finished with 38 assists. Youngren also hit an outstanding .450 with three block assists and a solo block.

The Jacks (9-15, 8-7) have now put themselves in position – one game back of fourth-place IUPUI with three to play – to be one of the four teams that qualify for the Summit League Championships in Fargo, N.D., on Nov. 21.

“We just can’t keep saying things; we now have to walk the walk,” Allison-Brewer said. “We have to prove it. We need to put our skills out there and show that we have the ability. I think that we are starting to reach another level … to be among the top teams in our league.”

With all three games on the road, it will not be easy, especially with a trip to North Dakota State on Nov. 7 to kick off the final two-week stretch.

The Bison (19-3, 15-0) have clinched the number one seed in the Summit League Tournament for the second season in a row and have won 18- straight home matches. They also tied the consecutive league wins record on Oct. 31 with a three-set thrashing (25-13, 25-14, 25-18) over Southern Utah for their 34th straight Summit League win. They tied the all-time league record set by Northern Illinois from 1992 to 1993.

“We know what NDSU has to offer,” said Allison-Brewer. “We need to go in there feisty and aggressive. There is no more holding back. We need to make a statement and really show them that we are one of the top four teams in this league.”

The Jacks dropped the first meeting between the two rivals this season at Frost Arena 3-1 (25-19, 20-25, 25-21, 25-17) and have lost the last four.

“We need to understand how to enjoy the pressure,” Allison-Brewer said. “There is something that, as a team, we are trying to mature to. We had some opportunities in the first half of the season, but then we have had losses in the second half that has created some pressure, and we haven’t been able to respond as well. Now we have an opportunity to create our own destiny and where we are going to go the rest of the season based on how we play these next two weeks.”