Volleyball travels to Illinois, Minnesota

Chloe Risse, Sports Reporter

After a tough loss to their in-state rivals, the Jackrabbit volleyball team looks ahead to two more Summit League road games this weekend against Western Illinois and St. Thomas.

The Jacks will first travel to Macomb, Illinois, Thursday to take on Western Illinois before heading to St. Paul, Minnesota, Saturday for their matchup with St. Thomas. Despite both teams struggling this season, coach Dan Georgalas said that they will each present tough challenges to SDSU this weekend.

“Both teams competed with us very well with a five-set and a four-set match last year, so we know we have battles coming up,” Georgalas said.

The Jacks will play Western Illinois for the first time this season. The last time the two teams played was last season in Macomb, a game the Jacks won in five sets.

Western Illinois is led by coach Dale Starr, currently in his first season with the team. They are 0-5 in the conference and 4-13 overall. 

Sophomore Brittany Wulf leads the Leathernecks in kills with 176 this season. Elizabeth Ziegler is second in kills with 148, while Aubrey Putman is third with 137. As a team, the Leathernecks have been outscored this season, winning 695 total points to their opponents’ 860.

Following their game with the Leathernecks, the Jackrabbits will then head to St. Thomas. The two teams last played Nov. 5 last season in St. Paul when the Jacks beat the Tommies in four sets.

St. Thomas is also 0-5 in the conference and 2-15 overall on the season. They are led by coach Thanh Pham in his 20th season with the team.

Their best offensive players are sophomore Lauren Galvin and freshmen Emma Goerger. They have 178 and 103 kills respectively and are the only players to have over 100 kills this season. As a team, they have also been outscored this season, having won 595 total points against their opponents’ 846.

“We feel resilient, and we still feel confident,” Georgalas said. “We know we’ve played well, and we are not going to worry about results, and we will focus on the process and what we can control this week.”

The Jackrabbits fell to the USD Coyotes in the South Dakota Showdown last Saturday. SDSU played hard but eventually fell to the Coyotes in five sets (25-16, 23-25, 16-25, 25-22, 10-15). The volleyball fanbase broke records with 1,524 spectators, the highest-ever volleyball attendance at Frost Arena.

“Not only is it a record attendance, but it’s a 500-fan increase from the last time we hosted USD at Frost Arena,” Georgalas said.

After winning the first set, the Jackrabbits lost the next two sets, as USD started gaining momentum. 

SDSU had chances to get the momentum back in the third set, as they quickly scored the first two points. But the Coyotes ended up rallying for six points in a row and eventually won the third set 25-16.

Despite being down two sets to one, the Jackrabbits kept fighting. In set four, the score stayed close even before SDSU began a rally and scored eight points in a row, putting the score at 20-14. This lead was enough for the Jacks to hold on, and the Jacks forced a fifth set.

The two teams battled back and forth early in the fifth set, but the Jacks defense could not stop the Coyotes from pulling ahead late into the set. After a few big kills, the Coyotes led 11-5 in the set, a deficit the Jacks could not fight back from, eventually losing the set and the match.

“You know that margin of victory can sometimes just be an inch, and it seems like they (USD) have been winning that inch these last couple matches and there are a lot of positives to take away from it,” Georgalas said. “We are knocking on the door.”

Crystal Burk led the team with 18 kills, four aces and two blocks in the game. This was followed by freshman Masa Scheierman, who put up 14 kills, two aces and four blocks. Ella Thompson and Elyse Winter followed with nine kills each.  As a team, the Jacks had 53 kills, 50 assists, 12 aces and 10 blocks. The Coyotes had 57 kills, 53 assists, 12 aces and 10 blocks.

The next time the Jackrabbits will return to Frost Arena is to host Kansas City Oct. 13 and Oral Roberts Oct. 15.