Growing pains

By Robert Myers Sports Editor

SDSU volleyball team drops first three Summit League matches including NDSU heartbreaker

The SDSU volleyball team fell to 0-3 in conference action following a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the NDSU team that rallied to win the final three sets before a crowd of 408 in Frost Arena.

Friday marked the dawn of Summit League play and the return of Oral Roberts to the league as they hosted the Jacks, besting them 25-22, 25-15 and 25-22 in three sets.

“The first and third sets were very good for us,” said head coach Phil McDaniel. “We were blocking well. We paid attention to our blocking assignments. We slowed down their outsides a bit. The second set got away from us a little bit in the ball control area… For us we have to make sure we are dialed in the whole time.”

Sophomore middle blocker Tiara Gibson led the Jacks with eight kills and six block assists, but SDSU’s .111 attack percentage could not hold up against a .256 attack percentage for the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles.

Sunday, the Jacks had a chance at redemption against Fort Wayne in the friendly confines of Frost Arena. After surrendering the first two points, SDSU raced out to a 6-2 lead, prompting an IPFW timeout.

Out of the timeout the set turned against the Jacks, as the Mastodons went on an 11-2 run and ultimately took the set 25-13.

“It’s a confidence thing with our group,” McDaniel said. “We are still figuring out how to fight and how to fight when people push us. That fight wasn’t there tonight. We came back in the second half, played a little better.”

 As McDaniel said, the Jacks did return with fight in the second set, forcing a back and forth battle for one or two point leads up until IPFW went up 20-18, prompting McDaniel to call a timeout.

“For us, a call didn’t go our way and then the next thing you knew we were down a couple,” McDaniel said about calling the timeout. “It’s just about taking control of the ball, taking care of the ball, keeping it on our side of the net so that we can get our middles active – we’re a lot better team when our middles are active.”

Despite the timeout, IPFW would go on to take the set 25-22 and ran away with the third and final set, taking the set 25-14 and the match 3-0 to sink the Jackrabbits to 0-2 in conference and 1-7 on their home court.

SDSU spent the night with a negative attack percentage, finishing at -.013 with 19 errors and 18 kills whereas the Mastodons managed 47 kills compared to 14 errors, good for a .363 attack percentage.

“Way too many hitting errors,” McDaniel said. “Not enough offense tonight. We’re mediocre right now. We’re not taking good solid swings, making a lot of hitting errors and a lot of overall lack of detail errors. It’s kind of frustrating and tough to watch … We have to fight through it.”

 Wagner Larson proved the bright spot for the Jacks, recording seven kills and two block assists.

Tuesday night’s matchup against the Bison looked promising for the Jacks who took the first two sets by scores of 25-20.

“We focused yesterday a lot on the outsides and right side, making shots and being aggressive on our swings, especially with out of system balls,” said sophomore outside hitter Kacey Herrmann. “We kind of went in today NDSU’s offense came alive in the third set though and turned the momentum against the Jacks as the Bison wrapped up the set 25-16.

“When we’re up 2-0 at home we have to finish,” McDaniel said. “You can’t let teams back in. We gave them some hope in that third set and they came back to finish it in the fourth and fifth set.”

The fourth set appeared to belong to the Jacks as they repelled the Bison much of the way, refusing to give NDSU the lead until the Bison finally went up 18-16, prompting McDaniel to take a timeout.  SDSU would tie the game at 20 and 21 before NDSU stole the last four points, including a call McDaniel didn’t agree with to take the set 25-21.

“There was a call I didn’t agree with,” McDaniel said. “I had a couple conversations with the ref. She heard me and she understood what I was talking about … Sometimes when we talk to the ref we know we’re not going to win the argument, but girls have to see us fight.”

SDSU never led in the fifth set but they did not give in. Three times the Bison opened up a lead and threatened to run away with the set and three times the Jacks rallied to tie or pull within one. A 3-0 run late in the match humbled the NDSU lead to 13-12, but the Jacks would come no closer as the Bison pulled out the win 15-13.

With the loss, SDSU falls to 1-8 in Frost Arena while they have played .500 on the road and at neutral sites.

“It’s kind of a mystery,” McDaniel said. “We’ve talked to the team several times about making sure we take care of our home court and we understand that people are coming out. They want to cheer, they want to get excited and we need to do good things to get them excited.”

Despite losing the match, the Jacks held a nine to six advantage in blocks and also boasted a higher attack percentage. Herrmann finished with 11 kills and 21 digs while teammate Larson led the team in kills with 14 and had three aces.

The Jacks conclude their three-game homestand Friday at 7 p.m. when they host the Denver Pioneers.