Volleyball team starts conference play Saturday



SCOTT ENGEN Sports Reporter

The South Dakota State volleyball team will square off against IUPUI at 7 p.m. Friday night in Frost Arena. It’ll be the Jacks’ first Summit League match of the season.

SDSU (1-11) will head into the matchup with a nine-game losing streak.

Coming off of a tough three sets to one loss to University of North Dakota Wednesday, Sept. 14, SDSU is looking to regroup with the week off and get their first win since Aug. 27.

“There’s a lot of different things working against us, one of them being injuries. We have a lot of injuries going on right now, we have people playing out of position, which means we don’t have the depth,” said Head Coach Nicole Cirillo. “I think that’s what hurt us Wednesday, we ran out of gas.”

The Jacks have been led by senior Ashley Beaner and junior Ellie Benson so far this season. Beaner leads the team on offense, while Benson anchors the defense.

Beaner is first on the team for kills with 129 and kills per set with 3.22. She also has had double-digit kills in eight of the team’s 12 matches this season.

The team’s libero, Benson, was named The Summit League Volleyball Defensive Player of the Week. This is Benson’s first Player of the Week award. She was able to record 32 digs last match against UND, tying the SDSU record set in 2012 by Shay Birath.

Benson became just the fifth player in South Dakota State history to record 30 or more digs in a match.

“Ellie was beyond fantastic. She did her job as libero and it payed off,” Cirillo said. “A well-deserved accolade for sure.”

IUPUI is coming into the match with a 4-11 record. They beat University of Wisconsin Green Bay, who SDSU lost to earlier in the season. Last season the Jaguars went 21-10 overall and 12-4 in conference play.

The Jags are led by juniors Kori Waelbroeck and Gabby Fisher. Waelbroeck leads the team in total kills with 175 and kills per set with 3.35. Fisher is second on the team in kills per set with 2.81. Fisher is also second on the team in total digs with 166 and digs per set with 3.19.

The Jacks are coming off a season last year where they went 4-12 in conference season after getting just three wins in the non-conference matches. This year, with only one win heading into conference play, Cirillo is focused on improving everyday in practice rather than on the win and loss column.

“For us, I don’t think the stakes are truly higher [for conference matches], we’re not at that point yet where we’re truly competing day-in and day-out to get those wins,” Cirillo said. “Do we want them and is that our goal? Yes, but we still have a lot of other things to take care of.”

Cirillo said they have to limit errors and play good defense.

“If we stay aggressive and keep them on their toes, we’re going to earn some points. We need to continue to do some of the things we’ve done defensively on top of our offensive side,” Cirillo said. “We need to be better at predicting teams, I think that’s one of our weaknesses right now … We need to figure out a way to make our job a lot easier.”