The USD volleyball team looked like the best team on court this past Friday night, but they were unable to pull off a win.
The Coyotes dropped the first two sets of their home opener against Western Illinois, two heartbreaks that extended well-beyond the 25-point mark. It looked like the Leathernecks were going to waltz out of the DakotaDome in a clean sweep.
But USD strung together two dominant performances in sets three and four. The Coyotes forced a fifth deciding set with uncontested 25-10 and 25-13 margins.
That’s where the wheels came off. Western asserted themselves as the resilient team, claiming the fifth set 15-11.
“We were frustrated with our overall consistency on the weekend,” USD head coach Leanne Williamson said. “Sets three and four against Western were our most hard-fought sets that showed who we can be. But to not come out in set five is a disappointment. We’ve gotta learn from those moments.”
Despite the disappointing outcome of the team’s first game back at home in the Coyote Den, the Coyotes had to bounce back Saturday afternoon against Nebraska-Omaha.
The conference opponent was no small task for USD to begin with. Then injury struck one of the team’s biggest verbal leaders.
Senior Sydney Dimke went down with a right leg injury midway through the second set. No timetable has been set on her return, but her teammates were forced to play on without her.
The Coyotes battled for extra points in game two following Dimke’s injury after claiming set one.
But the Mavericks rallied to drop the Coyotes in four games, 21-25, 32-30, 25-22, 25-22.
“No loss is easy to swallow, and it was especially tough with the outcomes we had plus losing Syd,” junior outside hitter Audrey Reeg said. “It sucks all around. It’s tough knowing we couldn’t pull out a win for her.”
The Coyotes were benefactors of some strong individual performances, but unlike their final tournament at Purdue, the team was unable to come out on top in crunch time.
This week, the team is focusing primarily on their passes to keep their offense on top in points. They are hoping the first hit leads to clean second and third hits for points.
“We had so many opportunities to finish each set and each match. We just didn’t capitalize,” first-year Lauren Mattison said.
USD’s next chance for a conference victory is Friday at North Dakota. First serve is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The team does not return to Vermillion for Dakota Days weekend as they turnaround for another away match against Denver on Sunday beginning at 2 p.m.
(Photo: Rising for the kill, junior Audrey Reeg winds up for a spike against Western Illinois during the Sept. 25 contest in the DakotaDome. The Leathernecks came out ahead 3-2. Sydney Mook / The Volante)