Young Jackrabbits struggle with eight-game losing streak

After losing its eighth match in a row over the weekend, the inexperience of the South Dakota State volleyball team is showing. It won’t get any easier for them as the Jacks have four games on the road this week and start Summit League play afterward.

“(The youth) has kind of poked through the past couple of weeks, but it kind of really showed full light over the weekend,” head coach Nicole Cirillo said.

The Jacks are in the middle of an eight-game road trip, the longest of the season. While it was nice for the Jacks to host an invitational earlier in the month, Cirillo said, the lengthy road trips are still tough on the team.

“This week especially will be by far the longest [this season], leaving on Tuesday and not coming home until early Sunday morning,” Cirillo said. “So this will be a challenge just from the travel standpoint after the weekend we just had.”

SDSU will head to Chicago on Wednesday for their 6 p.m. match against University of Illinois-Chicago. 

UIC will hit the court with a 6-3 record, led by senior outside hitter Kyisha Hunt, who has 126 kills on the season.

Their time on the road will conclude in Peoria, Illinois, after the Citizens Equity First Credit Union Invitational. The Jacks will go up against the Bradley Braves (3-7), the Grand Canyon Lopes (4-5) and the University of Missouri Kansas City Kangaroos (4-5).

The Jacks face the Braves first in the tournament, which are led by junior outside hitter Erica Halsig, who has 196 kills on the season.  

With all of the teams having a record below .500, this could be a good chance for the Jacks to end their losing streak.

Junior middle blocker Payton Richardson said despite losing all three matches last week, the team got a lot accomplished and this weekend should be better. 

“Our energy was great. We were up and encouraging each other, but we still have to work on our mental toughness,” Richardson said. “I want to walk away with four wins this weekend and improve our record. I hope to build our team chemistry on the court, and when we go to conference play, we’ll know what we have.”

The Jacks begin action against Summit League opponents Sept. 22 at Denver. Even with the 1-8 start, Cirillo believes there is still hope for the rest of the season, especially in conference play.

“We still have the ability to do great things and we are not completely bailing on what those goals are for conference play. It’s just taking some different routes to get there,” Cirillo said. “Hopefully we learn from the preseason. The preseason tournaments are built to prepare us for conference play.”