Volleyball invites rival teams for Jackrabbit Invitational

Kirk Danielson

Kirk Danielson

With returning top players and a 7-3 record, the 2006 Jackrabbit Volleyball Team seems to have a solid start toward achieving its primary goal this season.

“Our number one goal is to make the postseason. We just need to beat teams that we’re supposed to, and hopefully beat some teams that we’re not, and just beat everybody else,” said Head Coach Andrew Palileo.

The team began the season 5-0, sweeping all of its opponents at the Jackrabbit Kickoff Tournament in August.

The volleyball team has come together quickly this season. The team’s top nine players are back from last year. Returning all of the starters from last year’s squad has helped to build the maturity and confidence of team.

“We put our lineup out there, and we went with that from the start of the season. We started out well. That helps us against younger teams that are still finding their lineup,” said Palileo.

“We haven’t had to rotate the lineup much. We just started off where we left last year,” said senior Minette Ridenour.

Teammate Kristie Klusaw said, “We just took that next level up on maturity. Last year if we made an error, it was like ‘Oh my gosh,’ but this year it’s like, ‘OK, we got it.'”

Klusaw and Ridenour are two of the team leaders. Both girls, along with junior Kristina Martin, were named to 2005 all-Independent teams. Last week, junior Samantha Pearson was named Division-I Independent Defensive Player of the Week. She joins Klusaw as the second Jackrabbit to win an Independent Player of the Week award this season. Klusaw was named setter of the week in August.

The Jacks faced their first road test two weeks ago at the Wisconsin InnTowner Invitational Tournament. In the first game of the tournament, the Jacks came back from being down two games to zero to defeat Oregon State.

“We had a few bad three or four point stretches in the first two games (against Oregon State), but once we tightened that up, we started attacking their big, left-side hitter until we wore her down. By the fifth game, she was wore down. Then we got a little more energy, and played the way we did at home the first weekend,”? Palileo said.

Klusaw said, “We knew we were the underdog (against Oregon State), but we went in there to prove ourselves and get South Dakota on the map.”

“After we played game three, it was like we were going to win,” Ridenour said.

In the Wisconsin tournament, the Jacks fell to the number 11-ranked Wisconsin Badgers.

“It was a good experience to go in there and play ranked teams. It sets the tone for the type of caliber teams the girls will be playing against next year,” Klusaw said.

Last weekend, the Jacks downed Drake University, 3-0, in Des Moines, Iowa. Then they split in the Cyclone Classic, beating Valparaiso, 3-0, and coming up short against Iowa State, 1-3, in Ames, Iowa.

After spending the past two weekends on the road, the team comes home for the Jackrabbit Invitational tournament. The Jacks play well at home, boasting an undefeated record at Frost Arena this year. Among the teams coming to the tournament is future Mid-Continent Conference rival, the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) and number 22 ranked New Mexico State. The Jacks start the tournament against New Mexico at 7 p.m. Friday night, and square off against UMKC Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m.

At all Jackrabbit volleyball home games, fans have a chance to win free t-shirts and Burger King Whoppers. After each block by an SDSU player, a t-shirt will be thrown into the stands, and for every service ace hit by the Jackrabbits, a fan name will be drawn for a free whopper.

Another promotion at the volleyball game is the Freshmen Freebie. For every freshman an upperclassman brings to the game, the upperclassman’s name is entered into a drawing for a prize. The freshmen are entered into a separate prize drawing. Any Jackrabbit fan who makes it to both the volleyball and soccer games on Friday night will be eligible for a separate drawing.