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Coyotes lose to Missouri in NCAA Volleyball Tournament

USD season ends in NCAA Tournament
Published: Apr. 14, 2021 at 11:01 PM CDT
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OMAHA, NE. (Dakota News Now) -South Dakota saw its volleyball season come to an end on Wednesday as Missouri posted a 25-21, 25-17, 25-15 win in the NCAA Tournament first round inside the CHI Health Center. The 25th-ranked Tigers posted a .347 hitting percentage in the match that included 47 kills and just 14 attack errors. South Dakota, meanwhile, was limited to a season low 28 kills and a .126 hitting percentage in seeing its second appearance in the NCAA Tournament in the last three seasons conclude a 15-7 campaign. “So, obviously not the outcome that we were hoping for, or really expecting,” coach Leanne Williamson said. “I really felt like going into the match that it was a good matchup and I still believe that. “If you look at just kind of overall what our team did today versus what I’m used to seeing. I just don’t think we played as clean on our side of the net.”

Missouri, behind the strength of its All-American Kylie Deberg, produced hitting percentages over .500 in both the second and third sets after a somewhat slow start offensively in the opening set. Deberg, a 6-4 senior and three-time All-SEC selection, had 10 of her match high 16 kills in the second set and finished with a .481 hitting percentage in the match. South Dakota, though, fought its way back from a big deficit in set one to even it at 17-17 and held a slim 15-13 advantage at the media timeout in set two. However, the momentum couldn’t be sustained for long periods of time against a much taller Tigers lineup. “They’re a good offensive team, they’re going to get their kills, they’re going to do some really good things at times and we knew that,” Williamson said. “But, there were too many moments where I felt like we kind of lost our flow, we weren’t able to really get into a good rhythm, which obviously affected us and took us longer sometimes to put some rallies together or had some missed opportunities when we had those opportunities. “So, I do think that there’s still a lot to take form today and with so much of our team coming back, I’m hopeful for the future that this is going to teach us a lot.”

Elizabeth Juhnke and Sami Slaughter, the Coyotes two offensive leaders all season, led the way again against the Tigers with nine kills apiece. Madison Jurgens contributed 21 assists and nine digs. South Dakota trailed 12-3 in the opening set only to mount a rally that eventually evened things at 17-17 as Missouri had 10 of its 14 attack errors in the opening set. The Tigers, though, closed the set on an 8-4 run. The back-and-forth second set, which saw eight ties and three lead changes, saw the Coyotes lead 15-13 before a 6-0 run from the Tigers led to a 12-2 finish to the set. Missouri scored 21 of its 25 points in the second set on kills. “As a team, I felt like we weren’t playing defense as well, so it was kind of a one kill and done to them, which gave them momentum,” Slaughter said. “We just kind of put our focus on our side of the court and know like, we have nothing to lose at this point in time.”

Missouri, making its 17th NCAA tournament appearance since 2000, led from start to finish in the third set as Anna Dixon backup Deberg with 11 kills and hit .304. It was only the fifth all-time meeting between South Dakota and a school from the Southeastern Conference. The Coyotes will bring back 14 of the 15 players currently in uniform and Slaughter, the lone senior, will take her extra year of eligibility and enjoy a fifth season of college volleyball in the fall. “You know, right now I think it’s okay for us to be a little bit frustrated, for us to let it sink in a little bit and really feel it,” Williamson added. “I think that’s what’s going to help drive us in the future. This team all year has done everything that we’ve asked them to do. “Sometimes that came with a few more losses, sometimes it came with some different challenges, but I’m really proud of the way they handled all of those different situations and the adversity that they faced.”

It was just the second sweep the Coyotes suffered this season in a year that saw the normal fall season postponed until the spring. South Dakota, in the end, was one of the final 48 teams that qualified for the NCAA Tournament. “Obviously this year was hard for everybody but I do think that they’ve created some different situations for us that we had to work through,” said Williamson. “When we challenged them, they responded and I know that’s something that I’m very proud of them for doing, and something that helped us get to the point that we are right now. “Like I said I would rather be playing tomorrow still, but there’s no shortage of pride in this team and what they were able to accomplish throughout the year.”

Recap courtesy USD Athletics

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