The USD women’s volleyball team is slated to begin their first games of the season Jan. 22-23 in the Missouri State Tournament. This will be the first time the Coyotes have played in over a year after finishing runner up to Georgia Tech at the NIVC Tournament in Nov. 2019.
The team has used the extra semester provided to practice drills, lift and most importantly work on learning a new team dynamic that incoming players always bring.
“I am just excited to get back on the court and after practicing all this time I’m just excited to play another team and show the work we put in during the fall and spring,” senior setterMadison Jurgens said.
While improving as a team is crucial, individual improvement allows the team to succeed as well, sophomore outside hitter Elizabeth Juhnke said.
“I have been focusing more on my serve and my overall defense and overall game and being more confident as a sophomore,” Juhnke said. “People will know a little bit more about me and my game and going out and having different shots and still perform at a high level now that teams know what I can do.”
The last year brought some hard moments for players due to the spring being cut short. However, an abnormal summer and a postponed fall allowed the Coyotes to step up and embrace the change, head coach Leanne Williamson said.
“I think we have the opportunity to be very good again, we have a lot of pieces in place in order to have the success we have as a group going forward,” Williamson said. “Our goals haven’t changed and our expectations have not changed. Knowing that we play in a week is something that we have been really excited for.”
The fall also allowed the freshmen an opportunity to spend a semester with the team before having to play a match. Typically, the freshmen have to play their first match two weeks into the school year, Williamson said.
“For them to have a whole semester and form those relationships without team and learn how and why we teach things and be able to actually be okay with failure and trust the process,” Williamson said.
The returners were able to use the opportunity to get better and grow in their leadership, including senior outside hitter Sami Slaughter.
“I think the seniors before me did a tremendous job of leading us to the one goal of getting to the conference tournament and winning the conference tournament and following in their footsteps has been pretty easy coming after watching them do it,” Slaughter said.
Slaughter said she plans on using her extra year of eligibility next fall for the Coyotes and is excited about being able to play again this year.
“Our two toughest matches will be Omaha and Denver, we have gone back and forth with them and lost to Omaha in the Conference tournament so we have some stuff to do,” Slaughter said.
The Coyotes first matchup inside the Sanford Coyotes Sports Center is Jan. 31 at 2 p.m. against Creighton. The teams’ last matchup was at the 2018 NCAA Tournament First Round where the Coyotes lost to the Bluejays 3-0.