Jacks prove to be elite

Michelle Pollard

Michelle Pollard

There is no doubt that the South Dakota State University volleyball team achieved their goals this season.

When arriving on campus in early August, the team defined their goals for the 2001 season. One of those goals was to make it to the national tournament. Something that a team from SDSU had not done before.

This team not only made the tournament, they came oh-so-close to winning it all, finishing the season as the national runner-up.

The Jacks began the season ranked tenth in the nation and went into the tournament with the same ranking.

To get to the national tournament, the Jacks faced five ranked teams. In the North Central Region, SDSU defeated Augustana, who won the tournament last year, 3-2. They then took on North Dakota State, who was ranked fourth, to qualify for the elite eight.

Once they got to the national tournament, the Jackrabbits first draw was against Truman State (Mo.), a team that SDSU lost to earlier this season. As several of their matches have gone this season, it was decided in five games.

The Jacks then advanced to the semi-finals and took on tournament host Grand Valley State (Mich.). SDSU convincingly defeated Grand Valley in three games to place them in the national championship game versus Barry University of Florida.

While the outcome was not in the Jackrabbits favor, first-year Coach Andrew Palileo is proud of his team.

“When everything is all said and done, it was great. We’re disappointed with the loss, but in hindsight, getting second was great for the team and the institution,” Palileo said.

In order to get to where they wanted to be, the team had to keep their eyes on the prize throughout the entire season. Palileo said that the team made sure that what they were doing at a practice or in a game was worth it.

The team noticed a change in momentum after they played at Morningside on Oct. 6.

“The first time we played Morningside, that turned our season around,” Palileo said. “I saw that we could really do something.”

The team hopes to carry on the momentum into next season. However, they get until after Christmas to recover from this season. After break, the team will begin winter workouts.

While working towards next season is vital, the experience gained by playing at a national tournament was also an important tool in developing the team.

“The girls gained a lot of experience, especially the younger players, said Palileo.

Next year, the team will be without seniors Shauna Sturm and Grethe Bornhoft.

Sturm was named the American Volleyball Coaches Association National Division II Player of the Year. She will receive the award at a banquet in San Diego later this month. Sturm is the first SDSU player to receive this award. Sturm led the Jackrabbit offense all season and is among the top in school history in several career categories. She is second in kills with 1,528, second in hitting percentage with .322 and tied for third in block assists with 275. She also tallied 126 set assists this season, which is the highest ever for an SDSU player in a single season.

The Jacks will be returning a talented junior class.

Angie Rime, who was named All-American this season, has 4,130 assists, which is second on the SDSU all-time list.

Liz Archer is seventh all-time in career digs with 1,020.

Junior Kelly Hoemann stands at sixth place all-time in block assists with 201.

Now that the team has adjusted to first-year coach Andrew Palileo and his style, they are looking forward to what next season will bring, but are cherishing what they just accomplished.

“It was a good year and we’re looking to extend beyond what we did this year,” Palileo said. “Which is only the final game.”