Jacks continue to struggle in Summit League opener


 Sophomore Lizzie Palmer of Sioux Falls prepares to serve the ball at an exhibition match earlier this season. Jackrabbits drop to a 2-7 record and will travel to El Paso on Friday.

Carson Herbert

After losing its 13th match in 14 tries, the South Dakota State volleyball team will try to find an answer at home this weekend by trying to stay competitive. 

It appears the Jacks will continue to have their hands full this weekend with the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles and Denver Pioneers coming to town.

 Oral Roberts comes into the match 2-0 against Summit League teams. They outplayed both Fort Wayne and Western Illinois in four games in their previous conference matchups. 

Defending Summit League tournament champion Denver has an overall record of 10-3 on the season, including winning their Summit League opener Sunday against Fort Wayne. 

Two of Denver’s three losses were sweeps from nationally-ranked No. 1 Minnesota and No. 6 Texas in September.

“They are strong and physical and they know how to play the game at a high level. They are a very good team and how we are going to respond to their big plays will be the key to the match,” head coach Nicole Cirillo said.

Before coming to Frost Arena Sunday, the Pioneers will face NDSU Friday. 

The Jacks, who are at the bottom of Summit League standings, hope sophomore outside hitter Ashlynn Smith will continue to have success after recording nine kills against Omaha and 12 against NDSU, improving her season total to 112. 

“We still have athletes that are continuing to keep fighting and trying new things even if they aren’t 100 percent comfortable,” Cirillo said. “They want to win just as much as I do and they want to play better than what they are.”

The Jacks’ three-match home stand will finish Sunday. Cirillo said she wants her team to take advantage of the two matches at home.

Cirillo believes the Jacks have room to improve with only two Summit League games played.

“As a team, we are still working on how to consistently compete in every match and every point,” Cirillo said. “Improving is easier said than done when we have so many new players in the program and are trying to figure out our identity as a team on the court.”

The Oral Roberts match is at 7 p.m. Friday and the Jacks face Denver at 2 p.m. Sunday. Both matches will be played at Frost Arena.