Coyote VB finishes with late surge, looks to future

The South Dakota volleyball team saved its best for last in 2010. The Coyotes finished the season with a 12-4 record over their final 16 matches, on their way to a runner-up finish in the Great West Conference Championship on Nov. 21.

"We really grew and matured as a team throughout this season," third-year South Dakota coach Matt Houk said. "We learned what it means to become a family, and to fight for each other. I am so proud to have had the opportunity to be the coach of this team. We learned a lot about who we are, and who we want to become. When we judge this season, we will look upon it as a great success, both on and off the court."

The Coyotes, who had only one senior (standout Kristin Kritenbrink) on the roster along with six new faces, endured some growing pains against a difficult schedule early. That includes matches against six schools in the top 100 of the NCAA RPI – Tulsa, Northern Colorado, Drake, College of Charleston, Northern Illinois and North Dakota – plus matches against major-conference foes Georgia and Kansas State. Tulsa went on to win Conference USA; Northern Colorado was second in the Big Sky Conference and North Dakota won the Great West Conference.

The Coyotes' run ended with a loss to North Dakota in the championship. Kritenbrink and Walseth earned all-tournament honors after their strong play at the tournament.

The Coyotes must replace Kritenbrink, a first-team all-conference player who was one of the top players in program history, but return everyone else. In addition, South Dakota signed prep standouts Melissa Firtko (Racine, Wis.) and Kendall Kritenbrink (Gretna, Neb.) in the early signing period. With the new recruits, a strong nucleus returning and the momentum established late in 2010, the future is looking bright for South Dakota volleyball.

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