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USD to take on No. 1 in Summit

Despite being on a four-game losing streak, the University of South Dakota women’s volleyball team still has high hopes for the end of the season.

Senior Tahnee Reed said the losses have come more from mental mistakes, rather than the other team’s skill.

“A lot of it is little errors,” Reed said. “Overall, it’s nothing the other team is doing better than us. We’ve been our own worst enemy this season.”

Head coach Matt Houk said the Coyotes have fought until the end in all of their matches.

“Even in losses, our stats have been good,” Houk said. “We’re playing against really good teams and most of our matches have been going into four or five sets. Our faults have come mainly from hitting errors, which we hope to eliminate this weekend.”

Eight of USD’s last nine matches have used all five sets to determine a winner. The Coyotes have been on the losing end of six of them.

“We’re not tired, but the long matches are mentally exhausting,” Houk said. “The kids are physically in good shape, so they shouldn’t have any problem keeping up this weekend.”

The Coyotes are playing their last two games of the season Friday and Saturday against conference rivals North Dakota State and South Dakota State, respectively.

The crowds will be tough, as both games are on the road, but Houk said it won’t have a negative impact on the team.

“In the past, we’ve shown a higher level of focus when playing with adversity,” he said. “They’re both good arenas and the crowd will definitely motivate us. We’ll use the energy of the crowd as a positive.”

Freshman Kendall Kritenbrink has had a major impact on the team in her first year, as she leads the team in kills with 437, almost 200 more than the next highest hitter.

Kritenbrink said the team plans to play hard this weekend for the seniors.

“We’ve got to show (NDSU and SDSU) that we’re ready for them and to watch out for us in the upcoming years,” Kritenbrink said. “We’ve got to go out and leave it all on the court. We’re not going to have any regrets after this weekend.”

NDSU is currently first in Summit League standings, while USD holds sixth. Although USD has had a strong first season in the Summit League, the team isn’t eligible for post-season tournaments because it’s technically the final year of transition into Division I.

Houk said because the weekend’s wins won’t affect whether or not the Coyotes make it into the tournament, they’re playing more for pride.

Reed said even though she can’t play in the conference tournament her senior year, she’s still excited about the success they’ve had.

“It’s definitely disappointing that we can’t play for something at the end of the season,” Reed said. “But it’s good for our program and its future. If we didn’t transition when we did, we wouldn’t be as strong as we are now. What we’ve done this year is just as important.”

Next year, the Coyotes will be eligible for post-season tournaments. Because the team is losing only two seniors, Kritenbrink said she believes USD will have a strong showing next season.

“We’re going to bring intensity right away,” Kritenbrink said. “We’ve already made a big impact in the Summit League this year, it’s only going to continue to get stronger.”