USD volleyball team tops Jackrabbits in season finale

Freshman Kendall Kritenbrink, sophomore Amber Aschoff and senior Tahnee Reed combined for 47 kills to help the South Dakota volleyball team defeat South Dakota State, 25-23, 24-26, 25-21, 31-29 in Summit League action Saturday night in Brookings. With the win in their finale, the Coyotes improved to 14-18 overall and 7-11 in the Summit League, while SDSU fell to 13-20 overall and 5-13 in the Summit League.

Kritenbrink (Gretna, NE) had 18 kills, while Aschoff (Ankeny, IA) added 17 kills, hitting .400. Reed (Pierce, NE) had 12 kills, hitting .312.  Sophomore setter Tori Kroll (Germantown, WI) had 56 kills and 19 digs, while senior Carol Logato (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) added 23 digs and eight kills. Freshman Riley Haug (Gretna, NE) added 21 digs while sophomore Natalie Walseth (Inver Grove Heights, MN) had eight kills, four block assists and a solo block.

"We're extremely proud to finish up this way and end the season with a win," South Dakota head coach Matt Houk said. "Not many teams get to do that. For it to happen against our rivals is important."

In the opening set, the Coyotes were down 6-4 but scored five straight points – with Aschoff supplying two kills and Logato and Kroll one each – to take a 9-6 lead.

SDSU cut the lead to 9-7 but the Coyotes stretched the lead to 12-7 with three straight points – which included a kill from Aschoff and a service ace from freshman Kyle Everett (Maple Grove, MN).

South Dakota led by as many as six in the set, but the Jackrabbits climbed their way back to within 24-23 after a service ace. However, the Coyotes weathered the storm, as an Aschoff kill finished off a 25-23 first-set win.

Aschoff sparked the Coyote offense in the first set with six kills, hitting .667.

"Amber was a huge reason for our success tonight," Houk said. "Not only did she score the ball a lot, but she scored in clutch situations."

South Dakota continued the momentum in the second set, jumping out to a 10-4 lead.  Kritenbrink supplied four kills during that stretch. The Coyotes maintained the lead for much of the way before SDSU fought back and took a 23-22 lead.

The Coyotes came back and tied the set at 24-24 on a Kritenbrink kill, but the Jackrabbits scored the final two points on their way to a 26-24 win. Kritenbrink had six kills in the set for the Coyotes, who hit .163; however SDSU hit .317 with just four errors on 41 attempts.

After the tough second-set loss, the Coyotes rebounded with a strong start to the third set, taking an 8-3 lead.  Kritenbrink and Walseth had two kills each, while Reed had a service ace. The Jackrabbits fought back to take a 20-19 lead.

Again, the Jackrabbits came back and erased the Coyote lead and took a 20-19 lead. This time, however, South Dakota came back with three straight points – keyed by a kill by Kritenbrink and a combined block from Walseth and Kritenbrink – to take a 22-20 lead. SDSU cut the margin to 22-21, but the Coyotes scored the final three points of the set – two of the points coming on kills from Walseth and Aschoff.

The fourth set was a classic battle between the two in-state rivals.

The set was a seesaw battle with 14 ties and seven lead changes. South Dakota faced a 14-13 deficit but scored eight straight points – sparked by a big serving run by Riley Haug – to take a 21-14 lead.  Haug had two service aces during that crucial stretch, while Reed had two kills and Walseth one.

However, the set was far from over. SDSU came back to tie the set at 24-24, and then took a 25-24 lead on a service ace. From there, the set was tied five more times, and the Coyotes faced three SDSU set points – and survived them all. With the set tied at 29-29, a kill by Aschoff gave the Coyotes a 30-29 lead, and a Jackrabbit hitting error clinched a 31-29 South Dakota win – and wrapped up  the victory in four sets.

"We've been grinders all year," Houk said. "We've been a in a lot of five-set matches. Hopefully, that is a sign of some maturing happening – to be in a tough match and to come out victorious. That is the taste we get to leave in our mouths this offseason."

Kritenbrink finished with 12 digs, while Everett had 10. Reed had four block assists, while Kritenbrink and Kroll had three each. Haug had three service aces while Reed had two.

It was the final collegiate match for Logato and Reed, the two Coyote seniors.

 "It feels good for those two to finish their careers not only with a win against SDSU, but for them to perform very well," Houk said. "Tahnee took some huge swings. Carol kept balls alive and took a ton of swings in tough situations. I couldn't be happier for those two to finish their careers on a night like this."

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