By Peter Chapman
The University of South Dakota volleyball team solidified its first-place standing in the Summit League with a 25-21, 25-22, 26-24 sweep of Denver in Friday night’s matchup between previously-unbeaten teams.
Both teams came into Friday’s game with a 4-0 conference record making it an important positioning match as the teams get closer to the Summit League tournament next month.
“There’s no doubt that this was important. There were two teams that were 4-0 and battling it out to try and earn their right to have the top spot by themselves; and we knew it was going to be a battle, and they’re good,” said USD coach Matt Houk, whose team has now won 10 league matches in a row, dating back to last season.
“I’m really proud at how our players prepared and executed.”
In the win for Coyotes (14-6, 5-0), Kendall Kritenbrink led the attack with 16 kills and five digs. Tori Kroll contributed to the win with 40 assists for the night. Kelsey Biltoft had nine kills and Sydney Dimke and Audrey Reeg both had seven kills respectively.
Kaitlyn Hastings had three aces and eight digs and Riley Haug made eight digs. Mellisa Firtko also contributed to the Coyotes win with six kills, two digs and two blocks.
For Denver, Colleen King led with 11 kills, nine digs and 20 assists. Tori Moons had 20 assists for the night and four digs. Kate Acker helped on defense with 12 digs and Nola Basey had nine digs.
The USD Coyotes got out to a quick 8-4 lead over the Denver Pioneers in the first set. Kendall Kritenbrink went 10-10 for kills and Tori Kroll had 17 assists for the Coyotes in the first set.
“We came out really powerful swinging hard and being aggressive,” Kritenbrink said. “We really wanted to win this one tonight and I think we did a really good job with that.”
The second set, Denver seemed to find their rhythm as both teams kept within one point of each other to 21-20.
Dimke, Melissa Firtko and Kroll were very influential at the net for the Coyotes in the second set, making many decisive blocks.
“Denver is a really tough team to try and block. They play really high, they’re really long, and we did a good job of setting up on them,” Houk said.
The third set Denver came from behind at 24-19 to tie up the set with a five point run making it 24-24.The Coyotes seemed as if they were not as focused as they had been the rest of the set.
“I think we got a little ahead of ourselves and we thought that they were going to give us the game. But we can’t do that, and we’ve just got to focus on every point, one at a time and finishing the game,” Kritenbrink said.
Denver had a service error that gave USD a one-point advantage and another set point. A tip by Coyote Audrey Reeg won the game for the Coyotes and put them in the number one spot in the Summit League.
Next the Coyotes will play Western Illinois at the DakotaDome next Friday, in another Summit League match.
You can follow Peter Chapman at twitter.com/PEChapman.