SDSU defeats Western with focused attack

Marcus Traxler

A night removed from a five-set loss to IUPUI, the SDSU volleyball team wasted no time getting back to work on the court.

The Jackrabbits won three of the four sets played – all of them close – on their way to a 3-1 win over Western Illinois Sept. 22 at Frost Arena. Set scores were 25-16, 21-25, 25-23 and 25-20.

SDSU opened the match in a dominant fashion, controlling the pace of play and cruising to a nine-point opening set win. Head coach Phil McDaniel said the team increased its level of focus, which was a point of emphasis after the Jackrabbits fell behind two sets against the Jaguars.

“We talked about it a little bit as a coaching staff, and our job is to get them fired up. Our energy level was high to start the match. We were up and down a little in the second set, and we’ll have to work on being more consistent throughout,” he said.

That particular message, sent by McDaniel, was received by his players.

“We just knew that we would have to focus a lot more and to come out and play a lot better as a team, and I think we were able to do that,” SDSU senior Kaitlin Klingemann said.

The following three sets would be considerably closer, with 31 of the 33 total ties in the match coming in the final three frames.

The Leathernecks would rally for a second set win to make matters a tad more interesting before the intermission. SDSU led for most of the set before letting WIU back into the set to tie the game at 17. The Leathernecks took the lead for good with a Mallory Gibson kill at 21-20 and Molly Murphy gave WIU the set win with a service ace.

The third set stayed close with 11 ties and for most of the game with consecutive ties from 6-6 to 16-16. Margit Hansing moved the Jacks ahead at the service line with four straight points, and WIU gave the Jacks four of their final nine points of the set with unforced errors.

The Jackrabbits took the decisive lead in the fourth set on a Klingemann kill to put SDSU ahead 15-14. Klingemann and Kelli Fiegen each delivered a pair of kills before a WIU return error gave SDSU the win.

“I think we’re coming together well and our team is learning how to play off of each other a lot better. It’s been a lot of fun so far,” Klingemann said.

SDSU used a balanced approach to take down the Leathernecks. Klingemann and Fiegen had 14 and 11 kills, respectively, to lead the Jackrabbits in the victory, but contributions by Bailey Philippot and Kelly Herrmann were equally important in SDSU’s win. Herrmann had nine kills, while Philippot had seven.

Shay Birath led the defense with 25 kills, and Lexi Fowler facilitated the offense behind 27 set assists for the Jackrabbits, who play IPFW and Oakland this weekend on the road to open the Summit road schedule.

“It will be a good test for us. You’re always going to have to increase your level of play on the road, and I think we’ll be able to do that,” McDaniel said.