Two Jackrabbits set career-highs in third win of the season

HANNAH NIEMAN Sports Reporter

The South Dakota State volleyball team went 1-1 on the road this weekend, falling to Fort Wayne in four sets Friday night and defeating Western Illinois in five sets Sunday afternoon.

With Sunday’s win, the Jacks improved their record to 3-17 overall and 2-6 in Summit League play.

Senior Ashley Beaner and freshman Makenzie Hennen led the team on offense against IPFW, finishing with 15 and 12 kills respectively. Sophomore Mattison Munger recorded a double-double with 35 assists and 13 digs, while junior Ellie Benson added 17 digs. 

Fort Wayne controlled the first set after finishing on a 10-4 run to win the set 25-15. The Jackrabbits battled back in the second set, using a 5-0 run to take a 17-12 lead. Fort Wayne pulled within two, but the Jacks used a 7-1 run to win the set 25-17 and tie the match.

A 6-1 run in the middle of the third set gave Fort Wayne an 18-12 lead. IPF then outscored the Jackrabbits 12-6 down the stretch for a 25-17 win. Set four had nine ties. The Jacks tied the set at 22-22, but the Mastodons outscored SDSU 3-1 to win the match.

“I thought we played really well, actually,” Head Coach Nicole Cirillo said. “We took a set and had really close ones over there and definitely walked away with our heads high after that performance.”

Beaner and senior Nazya Thies led the attack against Western Illinois in the next game. Beaner finished with a season-high 19 kills and 14 digs, while Thies added 12 kills and a career-high 17 digs. Munger recorded her 10th career double-double with 43 assists and 12 digs. Benson led the defense with 22 digs.

The Jacks dropped sets one and two to WIU, 21-25 and 22-25, but took control in the third set, leading 15-3 midway through and winning 25-13.

SDSU took an early 12-9 lead in the fourth set, and pushed that lead to 21-16. Western Illinois then went on a 7-1 run and came back to tie the set at 23-23. The teams recorded six ties until back-to-back hitting errors from Western Illinois gave the Jacks a 31-29 win to force a fifth set.

Set five had five ties, until the Jacks broke an 11-11 tie with a 4-1 run to win the match.

“We got the W, but it was not a stellar performance by either team,” Cirillo said. “But at the end of the day, we obviously bounced back after being down 2-0 to win and even though it wasn’t the prettiest of matches from a statistical standpoint, the mental side of the game was huge for us to be able to stay with it and finish all the way to the end.”

The Jackrabbits will return home to host Denver University Friday at 7 p.m. in Frost Arena. The Pioneers will come into the match 14-6 overall and 6-2 in the Summit League.

The Pioneers currently lead the Summit League in hitting percentage with .266, while averaging 13.37 kills per set, which is second best in the league.

Sophomore Emma Willis has a hitting percentage of .364 for the Pioneers, which ranks first in the Summit League, while senior Ruth Okoye ranks second in the league with a hitting percentage of .363.

On defense, Denver is led by junior Cassidy Rooke who has 283 digs and Willis who leads the Summit League with 1.17 blocks per set.

The Jackrabbits come into the matchup averaging 10.81 kills per set and hitting .128, which are both second to last in the Summit League.

On offense, Beaner leads the team with 233 kills and is averaging 3.38 kills per set, which is fifth best in the Summit League.

Benson leads the Jacks defense with 313 digs, which is fifth best in the Summit League and is averaging 4.54 digs per set, which is fourth best in the league.

Cirillo said from a mental standpoint, the key to Friday’s game is maintaining the confidence they showed in their win against Western Illinois.

“Denver’s a good team clearly,” Cirillo said. “So for us to be able to just compete at a high level we have to have that same mentality and sense of urgency going into it.”

Denver swept the Jacks earlier this season on their home court. The Pioneers lead the all-time series 7-2 and have won seven in-a-row against the Jacks.