Volleyball builds off last year’s improvements

he South Dakota State volleyball team starts their season Friday in a tournament in Green Bay, WI.

The Jacks went 7-25 overall last year and 4-12 in Summit League play in their first season under Head Coach Nicole Cirillo. 

Cirillo is ready for her second season as head coach to start.

“My expectations for this season are really just excitement,” Cirillo said. “With so many young players, I’m not really sure what to expect from them on a performance standpoint, but I’m expecting them to give their full effort and do the things we have been working on.”

The volleyball team has six new faces on their roster, including five freshmen and one sophomore transfer. They are returning eight players who all saw time on the court.

“They [the returners] have set expectations for themselves, whether it was with my help or not,” Cirillo said. “To have that help and constant reminder for the newcomers to build off what we did last year.” 

Of those returners Cirillo thinks senior outside hitter Ashley Beaner will contribute the most to the team. Last year Beaner led the team with 2.44 kills per set and a .237 hitting percentage. She was also picked for this year’s Summit League Volleyball Watch List.

“Offensively, I want to see her continue to grow,” Cirillo said. “I thought she did a great job last year, but this year she has made more improvements so I think I’m the most excited to see what she does.”

 

As for the new faces, she’s excited to see all of them finally play in an actual match.

“This being my first class of freshman, there’s excitement in that alone, but they all bring something different,” Cirillo said. “It’s refreshing to actually have depth, which is something we didn’t have last year, so now if one of our outside hitters isn’t performing well then we can try something else.”

SDSU will play 10 of their 12 non-conference games on the road which can be difficult, but Cirillo believes it will help her team when it’s time for conference play. Typically Cirillo has her team play four preseason tournaments. This year she decided to only participate in three due to the amount of newcomers on the team. All three of these tournaments will be on the road.

“It’s always easier to play at home, but when it comes to conference championships, it’s winning on the road that gets you over the hump,” Cirillo said.

Last year Cirillo decided not to make any win-loss goals because it was her first year, and the Jacks were coming off a three-win season. This year, she has decided to do the same and give the team expectations and other types of goals.

“The expectation is that we pick up right where we left off and compete day in and day out,” Cirillo said. “The only difference this year is that I challenged them to win the closer matches. We were able to win two five-set matches last year but lost three of them, and it’s those matches that we have to not be nervous to win or lose and continue to push forward.”

The Jacks will take on both the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and Stephen F. Austin State University on Friday. They’ll play Eastern Illinois University Saturday.

The home opener will be at 3 p.m. Sept. 4 in Frost Arena against Bradley University.