The Coyotes are Summit League Champions.
“I had faith in my team the whole way,” senior guard Madison McKeever said. “We’ve been in this position twice now in my last three or four years. For us, we know that all the time you spent in the gym and working all preseason and I have faith in my team throughout the whole way that we were going to come out with this win.”
The Coyotes (30-2) ran through their first 18 conference games all the way up to the Summit League Championship game without a loss, but a third game against the Jackrabbits (23-10) presented a whole new challenge. The Coyotes were looking to be the first team to beat SDSU in the Summit League Championship game.
“It’s been a game that has eluded us for a really long time,” senior Ciara Duffy said. “Winning this tournament, none of us have ever done it, so to be able to win our way into the NCAA Tournament and to do it in a rivalry game was definitely really special.”
The game got off to a rocky start for the Coyotes, who shot 7-for-19 in the opening frame and led 16-15 after one. The second quarter was even tougher for the Coyotes, making 25% of their shots and trailing 32-17. USD had 12 more shot attempts than SDSU in the first half, in large part to nine offensive rebounds for the Coyotes.
Neither team could build much of an edge throughout the third quarter, but USD was able to trim the lead down to two points after three quarters.
Tournament Most Valuable Player Hannah Sjerven took the fourth quarter over. Sjerven scored nine of USD 11 points in the quarter and led USD to the 63-58 victory.
“My team does a really good job of holding me accountable,” Sjerven said. “Chloe Lamb pulled me aside at halftime and said it was time to toughen up and she was right. That’s what worked for me. The guards, all of them, did a good job of getting me the ball and made great passes.”
Sjerven tallied 15 points and eight rebounds for the Coyotes. Chloe Lamb and McKeever tallied 11 points and four rebounds each. Monica Arens and Duffy added 10 points.
Tagyn Larson led SDSU with 16 points. Rylie Cascio Jensen contributed 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists for the Jackrabbits. Tylee Irwin tallied 11 points.
Sjerven, Lamb, Duffy, Larson and Cascio Jensen were named to the all-tournament team with Sjerven beign named Tournament MVP.
“It’s really special,” USD head coach Dawn Plitzuweit said. “They’ve (the senior class) wanted this moment for a long time. They’ve worked so hard to get this opportunity and today (they) capitalized on it.”
The Coyotes won their second Summit League Championship, with their first coming in 2014. The Coyotes hadn’t beat SDSU in a title game in their Summit League, losing all five previous match-ups. The Coyotes claimed the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with the win over SDSU. The Coyotes have made the NCAA Tournament two other times (2014, 2019), losing in the opening round both games.
The Coyotes await the NCAA’s Selection Monday, March 16, to find out what seed they will be and where they are playing.