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SUMMIT VOLLEYBALL CHAMPIONSHIP: South Dakota Storms Back Against Denver To Return To NCAA Tournament

USD Rallies From Two Sets Down To Win 3-2
Published: Apr. 3, 2021 at 6:52 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - South Dakota’s first Summit League Volleyball Tournament Championship came in five sets at Denver in 2018 when USD rallied from down two sets to one.

The Coyotes’ second Summit title may have been even more improbable after they had their backs to the wall over the final three sets.

After dropping the first two sets 19-25 and 26-28 to Denver, USD stormed back over the final three sets, winning 27-25, 26-24 and 19-17 to claim the Summit League Volleyball Tournament Championship at the Sanford Pentagon on Saturday afternoon 3-2.

It’s USD’s second Tournament title and gives them an automatic qualifier into the NCAA Division One Tournament for the second time in program history.

It appeared for most of the day that the Pioneers would be celebrating a return to the NCAA Tournament. After taking the opening sets Denver rallied to take a 25-24 lead in set three and force championship point. Elizabeth Juhnke would tie the set again with a kill and, following a Pioneer attack error, Sami Slaughter delivered a kill to keep USD alive with a 27-25 win.

Denver looked poised to win the championship in set four when they went up 21-17 and forced a Coyote timeout. USD would respond with a 7-1 run that put them up 24-22. Though Denver would rally to tie, Maddie Wiedenfeld’s kill gave the Coyotes a 26-24 win to force the winner-take-all fifth set.

Once again the Pioneers appeared to have all momentum in the final set after a pair of aces from Lydia Bartalo helped them build a 4-0 lead. The Coyotes again chipped away, eventually tying the set at 8 on a Madison Harms block. USD built a 14-12 lead and appeared to win the match for a moment after a Denver kill attempt was at first ruled wide. A review, however, gave the Pioneers the point, and Denver staved off two USD championship points to tie and eventually take a 15-14 lead.

South Dakota then had to stare at elimination and, over a tense couple of minutes, fought off three Denver championship points. Juhnke gave USD an 18-17 lead and, on championship point, Slaughter knocked the ball off the Denver block to secure victory.

Tournament MVP Juhnke led the Coyotes with 23 kills while Harrisburg native Slaughter added 20 kills. Denver had six players tally double figure kills led by Katarina Marinkovic’s 17.

South Dakota learns who they’ll face in the NCAA Tournament tomorrow during the NCAA Selection Show at 3 PM on ESPN U. The entire NCAA Tournament will be played in Omaha, Nebraska.

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