The South Dakota State volleyball team is heading into its first season under new head coach Nicole Cirillo. The Jacks finished last year with an overall record of 6-27 and went 0-16 in the Summit League, which was the worst season in program history.
Cirillo is looking to change the culture of the Jackrabbit volleyball program. A program that went to the NCAA Division I Tournament in 2007 has only qualified for their conference tournament just once since the program moved to Division 1.. Cirillo will be SDSU’s 12th head coach and fourth since 2007. She spent the last five years in the Summit League at IUPUI as a associate head coach. In her tenure there, the Jaguars won three Summit League regular season titles, played in the Summit League championship game three consecutive years, won the Summit League Championship and made it to their first ever NCAA tournament.
There is only one goal for this team and that is to just get better. “Our main goal is to give 100 percent effort, control the things we can control, if we’re doing those things then we’re taking steps forward, hopefully being competitive, if we’re being competitive then hopefully the outcomes will take care of themselves.” Cirillo said.
The Jacks return all but two players from last year with Margrit Hansen graduating and arguably their best player last season, Tiara Gibson, transferring to Louisiana State University. They have five seniors this year who look to bring the leadership that previous seniors have been lacking the past few seasons.
“It’s a huge standout for us, having five seniors, all of them have played, they are all going to play a major role in our success this season. Having that experience is definitely going to help be the driving force for this team moving forward.” Cirillo said.
They include Alanna Pengilly who led the team in digs and Wagner Larson who lead the team in blocks and was second in kills behind Gibson.
“In a leadership role Wagner Larson is someone who has really bought into the changes from a mental standpoint and has really tried to enforce some of things that we’re trying to do as a team,” Cirillo said.
Cirillo is looking to change some things on the offensive side saying “We’re going to use our serving as an offensive threat, that’s something I know specifically last year that they did not do. That will be a huge turnaround for us to be able to score some points quickly.”
The Jacks kick off the 2015 season on Friday Aug. 28 when they travel to Dekalb, Illinois to play in the Northern Illinois Tournament hosted by Northern Illinois University. They return to Frost Arena for their home opener on Tuesday Sept. 1 to take on Drake University.