Jacks snap Summit League losing streak

John Begeman

It took 706 days, but the South Dakota State volleyball team finally found the ‘W’ column in Summit League play.

On Friday, Oct. 12 the Jacks (4-17, 1-7) took down the Western Illinois Leathernecks (1-20, 0-8)  in a highly contested match.

After losing the first set 25-22, the Jacks then went on to win the next two sets decisively: 25-14 and 25-21. The Jacks then lost the fourth set by two points, but won the fifth and final set by two.

Good things came in pairs for the Jacks. Junior outside hitter McKenzie Hennen recorded 18 kills and 18 digs while freshman outside hitter Crystal Burk logged 16 kills and 16 digs.

“Friday, she [Burk] brought it,” head coach Nicole Cirillo said. “She attacked aggressively and smart and added value to our backcourt.”

But it wasn’t the offense that won the game, it was the Jacks’ defensive play at the net as the team recorded a combined 17 blocks — led by Payton Richardson, Sydney Andrews and Sierra Peterson.

“The girls executed our plan from the get-go based off of the other team’s tendencies,” Cirillo said, “and put themselves in great positions to get blocks when their hitters made mistakes.”

That wasn’t the case Sunday afternoon as the Jacks hosted the Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons, losing in three sets.

Burk had another big game as she led the Jacks, logging nine kills and two blocks. The first two sets the Jacks played from behind before losing 25-18 and 25-20. But the third set the Jacks came out determined and led 17-13 until the Mastodons went on a 6-0 run and eventually won the set 25-21.

Leading the charge for the Mastodons was senior outside hitter Nicole Rightnowar with 15 kills and 16 digs. Soaring high above the net, sophomore middle hitter Sydney Boerst recorded five blocks, aiding in the three-set sweep.

“Talent has never been the problem with this team,” Cirillo said. “Talent is what keeps us competitive with teams. The difference is in our mentality. We haven’t pinpointed what that exactly means yet, but we’re trying — boy are we trying.”

The road won’t get any easier as the Jacks will take on the University of South Dakota. The Coyotes (12-8, 6-2) are led by senior outside hitter Hayley Dotseth averaging 3.96 kills and 3.62 digs per set.

South Dakota State will return to the court at 7 p.m, Oct. 19 to play USD in Vermillion.

“Every match is another opportunity,” Cirillo said. “We will continue to fight, teach and learn the best that we can and see what happens.”