Release courtesy of GoYotes.com
OMAHA – South Dakota's historic volleyball season came to a close Friday night at D.J. Sokol Arena following a three-set NCAA Tournament setback to ninth-ranked Creighton, 25-14, 25-14, 25-22.
The Bluejays, the highest ranked team the Coyotes have ever faced in the Division I era, set a season-high for a USD opponent with a .375 hitting percentage in a match that saw the hosts record 46 kills to just seven errors.
"The fight in our team was there throughout the entire match," Coach Leanne Williamson said. "The first two sets we let it get away from us.
"The thing about this team they don't back off, they haven't all season, you saw them get better as the match goes on and definitely in that this set we challenged Creighton."
South Dakota, playing in its first-ever NCAA Tournament at the Division I level, got a team-high 12 kills with just one error from senior Taylor Wilson and 11 kills from senior Hayley Dotseth, playing their final matches in a USD uniform.
The Coyotes were within a single point at 10-9 in the first set before Creighton went on an 8-1 run that ultimately ended with a 25-14 set victory.
Creighton posted an identical 25-14 win in set two before having to battle to the very end in the third set, four times fending off South Dakota opportunities to tie the score during the set.
"You never saw them give up," said Williamson, finishing up her fifth season as the head coach. "We were able to battle back.
"It's not the way we wanted our season to end but I'm extremely proud of this team. To come in and fight and for a program that hasn't been here before it's a great learning experience and something that we should be extremely proud of ourselves for."
The Coyotes, closing at 21-10, had just a .133 hitting percentage against the taller Bluejays front row while defensively Anne Rasmussen had 15 digs and Mehana Fonseca 10. Madison Jurgens contributed 30 assists for a team where five of the 12 players to see the playing floor were freshmen or redshirt freshmen.
Wilson, a two-year regular after transferring from Stony Brook, established a school record for career hitting percentage at .352 and finished third on the school's single season chart this fall with a .377 hitting proficiency.
"We got really gritty at the end," said Wilson. "The first two sets we were trying to feel it out more, third set it was win this set or were done.
"Creighton had a great team, they played a great match."
Dotseth, one of just five Coyotes to record 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs in a career, finished eighth on the school's kills chart with 1,187 and 10th on the school's dig chart with 1,259. The Summit League Player of the Year established a school record for attack attempts in a single season with 1,486.
"It takes a little bit for us to get going and we've proven to this point that we can get better throughout the match," said Dotseth. "The height difference for me was a little bit of a getting used to thing and we couldn't really get into system in the first two sets and that kind of hurt us."
Rasmussen, the junior libero and Summit League Defensive Player of the Year, became just the third Coyote to record at least 600 digs in a single season. She finished the year with 604, third-most in school history. She enters her senior season already sitting sixth on the school's career digs chart with 1,392.
The match was also a homecoming for junior Elizabeth Loschen, a former Omaha Marian High School standout, playing in her hometown for the first time in her collegiate career and facing high school classmate and friend in Creighton libero Brittany Witt.
"It was a great experience," said Loschen. "It was one of our goals at the beginning of the season to win conference and make it to the tournament.
"I'm really lucky and really blessed that everyone here knows good volleyball where they are Marian fans, Creighton fans or USD fans and I'm lucky to be from a town that really understands volleyball really well."
ABOUT THE SUMMIT LEAGUE
Through 36 years of Division I athletics, The Summit League offers 19 championship sports and has a combined enrollment of nearly 115,000 at nine institutions, including three located in top 60 U.S. metro populations and two land-grant universities. Member institutions include: Denver (University of Denver), Purdue Fort Wayne (Purdue University Fort Wayne), the University of North Dakota, North Dakota State University, Omaha (University of Nebraska Omaha), Oral Roberts University, the University of South Dakota, South Dakota State University and Western Illinois University. Previously known as the Mid-Continent Conference, The Summit League rebranded in 2007 and has since produced 12 NCAA Champions along with over 100 Academic All-Americans, nearly 125 All-America selections and numerous former student-athletes competing at the highest professional level. For more information about the league, visit www.thesummitleague.org website, follow The Summit League on Twitter @thesummitleague.