The University of South Dakota volleyball team won its third straight match Sunday, defeating the New Jersey Institute of Technology in a five-set thriller, 18-25, 25-21, 25-16, 23-25, 15-12 in action in Vermillion.
The win was huge for USD in the Great West Conference race, as the Coyotes (11-12, 5-3 Great West) stayed within striking distance of Utah Valley (6-1 Great West) and North Dakota (6-1 Great West). NJIT (14-7), which entered the weekend 4-0 in the Great West, is now 4-2 after losing to the Coyotes and North Dakota on its road trip.
Kristen Kritenbrink (Jr., Gretna, NE) paced USD with 20 kills, while Tahnee Reed (So., Pierce, NE) had a career-high 17 and Bailey Reshel (Fr., Hortonville, WI). Jenna Hatfield (Sr., Norfolk, NE) had eight kills and a career-high 10 block assists, while Gina Baldwin (Sr., Mitchell) had 49 set assists for USD. Mallory Mork (Fr., Sac City, IA) tied a career-high with 31 digs.
The Coyotes lost the first set, 25-18, but rebounded quickly in the second set.
USD held a 10-8 lead before going on a 7-1 run to build a 17-9 advantage. Reed and Kritenbrink each had three kills during that stretch for USD.
NJIT cut the lead to 22-20, but USD fought off the Highlander rally as Reshel finished off a 25-21 set win with a kill to help even the match at a set apiece.
The Coyotes took control early in the third set, storming out to a 12-4 lead as Hatfield and Reed each had two kills. NJIT never got closer than six the rest of the way as USD rolled to a 25-16 win, as Reshel and Reed finished off the set with back-to-back kills.
USD led early in the fourth set before NJIT went on a run to take an 18-13 lead. The Coyotes didn't go down without a fight in the set, however, as they tied the score at 23-23 when Hatfield and Kritenbrink teamed up on a block.
However, NJIT scored the final two points of the set to record a 25-23 win and tie the match at 2-2.
That set up a decisive fifth set, where USD started quickly. The Coyotes opened on a 5-0 run, with Reed, Kritenbrink and Hatfield recording kills. Also included in that run was a block by Baldwin and Hatfield and service ace by Reed.
NJIT got to within two points on seven different occasions in the final set, but each time, USD had a response. The Coyotes held a 14-12 lead after the Highlanders cut the gap once again. USD called a timeout and on the ensuing play, Kritenbrink slammed home her 20th kill of the match to conclude the five-set victory for the Coyotes.
Reed led USD with five service aces, while Baldwin and Jill Fields (Fr., Naperville, IL) had 18 digs each. Reshel also had six block assists. USD hit .151 for the match, compared to .125 for NJIT.