VERMILLION — Before they left the locker room following yet another victory, the South Dakota volleyball players were given one final parting message.
The seniors didn’t drop a single set to their rivals throughout their careers.
Eight wins. No losses. Eight sweeps.
“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, we really didn’t,’” said senior Elizabeth Loschen, who finished with 11 kills.
For the ninth consecutive meeting against South Dakota State, the Coyotes secured a sweep, this time a 25-22, 25-17, 25-11 victory on Tuesday night at the Sanford Coyote Sports Center.
More than the rivalry, though, USD (24-1) extended its winning streak to 21 and improved to 13-0 in the Summit League.
The victory also clinched at least a share of the regular season title — the Coyotes can clinch the outright crown on Friday.
First, however, USD had to withstand an early push by the Jackrabbits (6-19, 3-10).
“State is fighting for that last spot in the conference tournament, so we knew they were going to give us their best game, and they did,” Loschen said.
Especially in the opening set.
South Dakota State recorded 15 kills and had a hitting percentage of .368 in the first set.
“They didn’t give us any points, we had to earn all of them,” Loschen said. “Once we settled in, we got better as the match went on, and that was the key.”
What the Coyotes did, though, was stay patient, according to head coach Leanne Williamson.
“They (SDSU) came out ready to play, but they played an extremely good first set,” she said. “They hit for a high percentage, and it wasn’t always because we did something wrong, they just made some really good plays.”
Eventually, USD’s defense tightened up, as the Jackrabbits never reached the .100 mark the rest of the way and the Coyotes’ offense remained consistent — they finished with a percentage of .331.
Freshman Elizabeth Juhnke finished with a match-high 20 kills for the Coyotes, while freshman Madison Harms had 10 kills and six total blocks. Sophomore setter Madison Jurgens recorded 45 assists and 13 digs, while senior Anne Rasmussen had a team-high 22 digs.
The Jackrabbits, meanwhile, got 10 kills from Makenzie Hennen and Crystal Burk, 15 assists from Maddie Fay and 13 digs from Burk.
It’s the Coyotes, though, who once again came out on top.
Just as they have for two months.
Their lone loss of the season was a 3-0 decision to Iowa State, but since then USD has been the talk of the Summit League and has even vaulted into the top-40 in RPI.
Loschen was asked after Tuesday night’s win if she ever envisioned before the season that her team would be playing to the level it is.
“I feel like us seniors we knew,” she said. “We’ve played in this league for a few years now and we also knew the potential this team had.”
What those upperclassmen had to do, she added, was consistently drill into the heads of the freshmen that it could be a special season.
“We all had to believe it, and now we’re all bought in,” Loschen said.
The Coyotes wrap up their home schedule Friday night against North Dakota State at 7 p.m.
Follow @jhoeck on Twitter