Volleyball: Coyotes go five again, beat Drake

South Dakota’s Tahnee Reed, 10, and Kendall Kritenbrink, 12, go up for a block during the Coyotes’ home volleyball match with Drake, Monday at the DakotaDome. USD scored a 3-2 victory over the?Bulldogs in the non-conference matchup. (Photo by David Lias)

It's almost as if the volleyball gods were testing South Dakota.

In each of its previous two matches, USD was frustrated in a 3-2 loss to Summit League competition.

Maybe all the Coyotes needed was a non-conference showdown.

"I was saying 'Hallelujah' at the end," said senior Carol Logato, whose 27 digs helped USD get over the hump with a 25-18, 19-25, 25-19, 25-27, 15-10 win against Drake on Monday night at the DakotaDome.

"We needed that to happen."

It was a similar story for the Coyotes (11-12) in five-set losses to Southern Utah last Friday and Oral Roberts on Sunday: Let-downs in set four and struggles in set five.

In Monday's fifth set with the visiting Bulldogs, the Coyotes hit .333 with nine kills and only two attack errors.

"I think there was a great deal of learning since Sunday, that you have to be extremely focused on point one," USD coach Matt Houk said. "The girls took that to heart and didn't just expect things to come to them."

The two teams split the opening two sets, with Drake rallying from a 14-17 deficit in the second set to win 25-19.

Then in the third set, Kendall Kritenbrink – who had a match-high 28 kills – put USD ahead for good, 10-9, as the Coyotes avoided any letdown.

Until the fourth set.

In what was almost a mirror image of Sunday, USD let a big lead in the fourth set evaporate.

The Coyotes led 17-13 before Drake rallied. A pair of kill attempts for USD went long, allowing the Bulldogs to force a fifth set.

"Coach kept telling us to stay focused and stick with what we do best," Logato said. "And I think we played relaxed and finally got it done."

Needing to find some sort of spark, USD again went with junior transfer Bailey Lupardus as the starting setter – her third start of the season. And she didn't disappoint, recording 28 assists and 11 digs.

The Coyotes also experimented with having both setters, Lupardus and usual starter Tori Kroll in the game at the same time. Oddly enough, Kroll also finished with 28 assists and 11 digs.

"Bailey earned the right to start, but we wanted to find a way to get her and Tori in there at the same time," Houk said. "We thought if we could keep Drake on their heels, we could do some good things."

Amber Aschoff chipped in with 11 kills for USD, which had 30 attack errors and 10 serving errors. Tahnee Reed added nine kills and Riley Haug chipped in with 14 digs.

The Coyotes begin a three-match Summit League road trip Saturday at Missouri-Kansas City. USD will then bus to road matches at Western Illinois and IUPUI next week.

"We love being at home, obviously, but it can be a real positive to be on a bus together," Houk said. "We all do this for the relationships, and being on a bus for eight hours is the best way to bond."

Either way, home or away, the mission is the same, Logato said.

"It's nice to be at home in front of our people, but we need to get the job done away from the Dome," she said. "Like coach says, the ball is still round and the court is the same size, so it doesn't matter who you play."

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