Volleyball ready to host first tournament in years

By JOHN BEGEMAN Sports Reporter

South Dakota State’s volleyball team will host first ever Hampton Inn Jackrabbits Invitational this weekend in Frost Arena. 

This will be the first time in three years the Jacks will host a tournament. The participating teams will include the Valparaiso Crusaders, California State Bakersfield Roadrunners and Northern Arizona Lumberjacks. 

“There will be a good level of competition,” Head Coach Nicole Cirillo said. “especially with Northern Arizona being ranked among the top 100 (51) NCAA RPI rankings last season.”

A key goal for the Jacks this year is to turn competitive matches into wins.

Coaches and players both are excited to host a tournament because it allows the community of Brookings to come out and support the team.

The Jacks will hope to keep the momentum rolling after a promising first weekend at the Pepsi Panther Invitational in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They won their first game in three sets against the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. 

It was the first time in five years the Jacks swept an opponent in the season-opening match. Later Friday night they were swept in three sets by Virginia Tech and lost to Idaho State in four sets Saturday. 

Junior setter Mattison Munger had 29 assists over the weekend. She is now at 1,609 assists for her career and needs 79 more to move into the top 10 in career assists at SDSU.

Junior outside hitter Sierra Peterson was named to the Pepsi Panther Invitational All-Tournament team after leading SDSU with 28 kills, five service aces and seven blocks in the three matches. 

Senior libero Ellie Benson had 29 digs and 11 assists in the three games in the tournament.

Cirillo said Munger, Peterson and Benson are the team’s leaders and crucial to it’s success.

“Our three leaders are extremely important. They voice the coaches’ opinions and relay messages on and off the court,” Cirillo said.

Peterson said she, along with Munger and Benson, has tried to set example for the team which has eight freshmen.

SDSU will take on the Roadrunners in their first match in the Hampton Jackrabbits Invitational. CSU Bakersfield comes into the tournament with a 1-2 record and was predicted to finish fifth in the Western Athletic Conference this year. 

Redshirt senior middle hitter Sydney Haynes earned Preseason All-WAC honors and plans to lead this year’s team. 

The Roadrunners competed in the Arkansas Tournament last weekend where they were defeated by Utah State and Arkansas. They closed the tournament on a high note by sweeping Louisiana-Monroe in three sets.

Northern Arizona, despite going 1-2 in their first tournament, will undoubtedly be the team to beat this weekend. 

The Lumberjacks have plenty of talent, but their lack of experience is why they are predicted to end up fourth in the Big Sky Conference. They have an intense schedule, but Head Coach Ken Murphy wants his team to be challenged. 

“When you look at our team, you get the sense that we’re going to be a lot better in November than we are in August,” Murphy said. “However those results go, we’re going to learn from them and raise our expectations as the season goes on.”

Redshirt junior outside hitter Kaylie Jorgenson was named to the All-Tournament team after posting her third double-double of the weekend with 11 kills and 18 digs. She finished with weekend averages of 3.17 kills and 3.92 digs per set.

The Valparaiso Crusaders will come to Brookings looking to build upon a decent opening weekend. They spent the past weekend in South Bend, Indiana, playing at the Golden Dome Invitational where they faced high-level competition. The Crusaders lost to two top 100 NCAA RPI ranked programs in Notre Dame and New Mexico State, but swept Rhode Island in three sets. 

Setter Brittany Anderson and libero Rylee Cookerly, both freshman, received All-Tournament honors in their first collegiate action. Cookerly set a program single-match record with 43 digs in the Crusaders loss to Notre Dame and Anderson averaged eight assists, seven kills and  seven blocks per set during the tournament.

The first match of the Hampton Inn Jackrabbits Invitational will be between CSU Bakersfield and Valparaiso at 12:30 p.m. Sept. 1 at Frost Arena in Brookings. SDSU’s first match will be against CSU Bakersfield at 7 p.m. Sept. 1.