The Coyotes had set points in games two and three, but were unable to seal up either set, resulting in a four set loss to Nebraska-Omaha in the semi-final of the Summit League Championship in Denver Saturday afternoon.
“Omaha played a really good game, whether our team wants to fully admit that or not,” USD head coach Leanne Williamson. “They played absolutely fearless and they played really good defense. They made our hitter think a little bit too much.”
Three of the four sets went to extra points, Omaha winning all three of them. The Coyotes let a set point go in the second set, allowing Omaha to tie it up. The Coyotes jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the third.
Omaha stole the momentum from that point on, and took an advantage late in the set. The Coyotes and Mavericks went back-and-forth until Omaha prevailed 28-26. The Coyotes fell behind and faced an Omaha set point multiple times the third set. USD rallied to tie things up at 24, and went back and forth until Omaha was able to take the set 29-27.
The Coyotes never led in the fourth set, as Omaha jumped on top early. The feel of the gymnasium was that Omaha was blowing out the Coyotes, but it was a close set until Omaha started to pull away, holding a 22-19 advantage forcing Williamson to call timeout.
“In that fourth set, a lot of teams would just give up,” Williamson said. “They wouldn’t have that same, not only battle, but just will to find a way. That was really good to see, but maybe a little bit of too little, too late.”
The Coyotes had their backs against the wall trailing by multiple points with Omaha serving for match point. The Coyotes were able to rally to tie things up at 24 before Omaha won the match 25-21, 28-26, 29-27 and 26-24.
“I think you saw our youth a little bit,” Williamson said. “A lot of our team just hasn’t been here, hasn’t been in this situation on this stage. I think you saw a little bit of playing not to lose instead of playing to win.”
Elizabeth Juhnke finished the match with 13 kills on 50 attacks. Elizabeth Loschen tallied 11 kills and Sami Slaughter 10. Madison Jurgens racked up 44 assists and Anne Rasmussen 22 digs.
The Coyotes were out hit (.196-.167) for the match. Omaha had four players with 10 or more kills. Isabella Sade led the way with 17. Anna Blaschko and Alexa Blase totalled 15 kills each. Sadie Limback added 10 more. Sami Clarkson finished with 52 assists and Claire Mountjoy with 22 digs.
Omaha advanced to take on Denver in the championship match. Denver prevailed in four sets to win the title on their home floor. The Coyotes await the NCAA Selection Committee’s decision on who gets at-large bids for the NCAA Tournament. Williamson plans to have the team practicing again on Tuesday.
“We’ll watch the match tomorrow. I think its always good to see that situation, see the excitement around a championship match. Then we’ll take off on Monday and practice Tuesday and Wednesday again.”
Williamson plans to have the team preparing for wherever the team winds up from here.
“I told the team until they tell me we’re not in the NCAA Tournament, we’re going to train like we are,” Williamson said. “Even if we aren’t, we still have the NIVC and that one I believe we would be in. I don’t think we are done, I think we’ve got a chance to play some more really good volleyball and hopefully our players can respond.”