The University of South Dakota women’s Volleyball team defeated school rival South Dakota State University to open up Dakota Days athletic competition, in an exciting three games to one victory.
Over 1,100 fans in the Dakota Dome watched the match on Monday night. With the win, the Coyotes’ record improved to 10-8 and 5-2 in the Summit League while the Jackrabbits fell to 11-9 and 3-4 in the conference.
Senior middle blocker Tahnee Reed led at the net for the Coyotes with 19 kills, tying her career-high. Sophomore hitter Natalie Walseth ended with 16 kills and hit a scorching .609 percentage on the night, while junior outside hitter Kim Bulaga added another 12 kills.
Sophomore Tori Kroll ran the Coyote offense with 57 set assists and senior libero Carol Logato controlled the defense with 32 digs.
The first game began with back-and-forth scoring until the last few points. Despite a couple Coyote kills, the Jackrabbits pulled away to win set one 20-25.
The Coyotes came out firing after the loss and started the second set with a 4-0 kill run, Bulaga with two of those kills. The Jackrabbits were never able to gain the momentum as the Coyotes pushed the lead even further to 21-9. Reed then ended USD’s dominant second set with a big block, making the score 25-14.
The third set began with a little more even play until the Coyotes once again pulled away on a scoring run of seven points to none, with freshman Kyle Everett serving five of them. The score was then stretched to 23-14 until SDSU made a small run of their own. Reed closed the game, though, with another big kill, ending the set 25-19.
In the final set, Reed and Bulaga opened with two kills each to give the Coyotes a 5-0 lead. The Jackrabbits were able to come back and tie up the game at 20. But after another big kill from Bulaga, freshman Melissa Firtko sealed the win for the Coyotes with a kill, the final score 25-22.
Bulaga said the team came together after losing the first set and pulled out a big win.
“We calmed down and played more as a team,” Bulaga said. “We came out and played as one.”
Head Coach Matt Houk said the team stayed focused throughout the match in order to pull out a win.
“The girls did a good job of not getting caught up in the hype,” Houk said. “The rivalry is for the fans and media. We played like it was just another game.”
The Coyotes’ next matchup is against Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne on Friday at 6 p.m.