VERMILLION — The South Dakota volleyball team has come close to beating high-quality teams this season.
Looking for their first Summit League win in a month, the Coyotes instead came up short in yet another 5-set match, this time to Oakland on Friday night, Nov. 4, in the DakotaDome.
The Golden Grizzlies, vying for a post-season tournament spot, recorded a 25-18, 16-25, 25-17, 26-28, 15-11 victory in what was USD's eighth straight five-set match.
"That at least shows we're capable of winning," said senior Carol Logato, who recorded 14 kills and 15 digs. "We just have to keep our emotion level up every single time, even if we're losing big.
"It seems like it's not about technique or working on certain things, it's all about focus."
The only win for USD (13-16, 6-9) over a Summit League team with a winning conference record was Southern Utah – which was 1-0 before losing to the Coyotes.
It was more of the same against Oakland (15-10, 9-6), which benefited from 34 attack errors by the Coyotes.
"You can't have that big of a difference in errors and expect to win," USD coach Matt Houk said. "That's almost half of their points. At this point in the season, you can't do that.
"If we can eliminate even half of those errors, we'll be a lot better."
Down 18-22 in the fourth set, things were looking bleak for the Coyotes. Heads were hanging, the crowd was silent and the visitors were cheering.
Following a timeout, that all changed.
The Coyotes stormed back to tie the game at 26 and got consecutive kills from Logato and Kendall Kritenbrink to win, forcing another fifth set.
"It seems like we're always playing our best at the end of sets, just like that one," Houk said. "We just need to play that way the whole way, maybe then we could avoid five games."
USD got within 8-10 in the fifth set on a Tahnee Reed kill, but the Golden Grizzlies held on for the 15-11 victory – a frustrating one for the Coyotes.
"We're proven we can play with anyone in our league, but for whatever reason, we can't win," Logato said. "When you have five (sets) like this, you never know what happens."
Attack errors, a total of 11, were a problem for USD in the opening set that was marked by a dominant finish by Oakland.
The Golden Grizzlies used a 10-10 tie to roll to a 20-12 lead, on the way to the 25-18 win.
Errors were not a problem in the second set, as they were cut down to three for USD.
Logato had five kills in the set, which saw the Coyotes cruise after leading 13-11. Oakland, meanwhile, was out of sync and struggled containing USD's balance.
Those same unforced errors returned in the third set for USD, as 11 of them resulted in another sub .100 hitting attack.
The Coyotes got within 11-12 on a block, but the Golden Grizzlies jumped ahead 22-14 minutes later.
Logato's production was a welcome sight for USD, which moved her to a starting outside hitter position instead of her usual libero spot – though she surpassed the 1,000 career dig mark in the match.
"We haven't gotten a lot from that second outside hitter position, but we like having Carol and Riley (Haug) out there at the same time," Houk said. "Instead of having them out there for three rotations together, that lineup gives us six rotations."
The Coyotes will close out their home schedule Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. against IPFW (18-7, 11-3), which swept USD 3-0 back on Oct. 7.
"There's no rest for the weary," Houk said. "That's what we want, though, we want tough competition."
Asked about facing yet another five-set match against the Mastodons, Logato smiled and said that would actually be an improvement.
"If we go to five with them, it'll be good, but let's not jinx it," she said. "We'll win if we do all the little things right."