Denver, CO – USD’s volleyball team was defeated in the Summit League Conference Tournament semifinal Saturday in a five-set thriller against the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles.
The Coyotes had a heartbreaking turn of events after dominating the first two sets. The Golden Eagles downed the Coyotes 25-19, 25-20, 22-25, 23-25 and 9-15.
“If you look at everything this team went through, and the adversity that they faced – with the amount of injuries we had… the fact that they were in this position and did so well at the end of the season, when the world kept pushing them back, was incredible,” said head coach Leanne Williamson.
Although the final score showed the Coyotes lost, the statistics show otherwise. The Coyotes had a higher hitting percentage of .249 than the Golden Eagles, who had .231, and the Coyotes also out-dug Oral Roberts 84 to 79 digs.
Leading the way defensively for South Dakota was sophomore libero Anne Rasmussen, with 26 digs on the match. Junior outside hitters Kristina Susak and Hayley Dotseth weren’t far behind with 19 and 18 digs, respectively.
Senior Brittany Jessen, three-time Summit League Setter of the Year, dominated both teams statistically in assists with 55. Jessen had three team-leading blocks, two team-leading aces on the match and contributed 11 kills and seven digs.
The middle hitters did their part offensively with Taylor Wilson, junior, hitting 13 kills with a .571 hitting percentage and tallied three blocks. Kelly Law, senior middle blocker, fired nine kills with a .316 hitting percentage.
“They (the seniors) never backed down, never doubted how hard they were working. To see them possibly play their last matches, it’s bittersweet. You want to celebrate how much they’ve done, but you don’t want it to be over,” Williamson said. “They were my first class, my first group as a head coach – so they kind of went through the transition with me. They bought into me, the system and the program. I don’t think there’s enough words to describe what they’ve done for us.”
This season ended bittersweet for the injury-plagued Coyotes, with a starting outside that hasn’t practiced full time to many non-position specific ACL tears.
Senior outside hitter, Rachel Schmidt, who couldn’t finish out the season due to injury, said the team had a lot of great highlights this season.
“There were a lot of pivotal matches, I remember playing at home against Oral Roberts and IPFW – and just totally playing together as a team,” Schmidt said. “Even in the loss against Denver at home, that was such a great moment for us because we came together and we saw how much our team could do. Pushing through all that adversity has been the biggest highlight ever.”
The Coyotes finished 17-11 record on the season and third place in the Summit League.