VERMILLION — Just win.
Survive and advance.
That’s what it came down to on Tuesday night for the South Dakota volleyball team in the quarterfinals of the National Invitational Volleyball Championship (NIVC).
It didn’t have to be the cleanest performance in the world, but just find a way.
And that’s exactly what the Coyotes did in a five-set victory (25-21, 22-25, 25-15, 23-25, 15-11) over UT-Arlington at the Sanford Coyote Sports Center.
“It wasn’t perfect, as we saw,” said USD freshman Elizabeth Juhnke, who finished with 23 kills and hit .340.
“It was a little up and down, but I think we came back and really responded. That brings us a lot of confidence.”
With their season — already the best in program history — on the brink following a set-four loss, the Coyotes (30-2) got out to a quick start in set five and held on.
The win advances USD to the semifinals to face either Tulsa or Weber State (they play Thursday) on either Saturday or Sunday.
And that’s all that mattered for the Coyotes.
“At this point in the season, it’s going to be the team that’s more gritty,” head coach Leanne Williamson said.
“It wasn’t our cleanest match, but we continued to stay aggressive.”
Even in those moments in the second and fourth sets where the Coyotes were struggling to find a rhythm, they continued to swing big.
Eventually, they hoped it would come around.
“Great teams can find a way to win when you don’t play your best volleyball,” Williamson said.
The Coyotes committed 27 attack errors, hit just .236 and had 11 service errors, and struggled at times to consistently defend a balanced UT-Arlington attack — the Mavericks had five players with at least eight kills.
“Our defense wasn’t as crisp as it usually is, but we definitely responded,” Juhnke said.
Junior Sami Slaughter added 13 kills for USD, while senior Elizabeth Loschen tallied 12 kills and freshman Madison Harms had eight kills.
Sophomore Madison Jurgens recorded 55 set assists and senior Anne Rasmussen paced the defense with 17 digs.
All the Coyotes cared about, however, was advancing in the NIVC.
Now they’ll just wait to see who and where they play next.
“We’re excited to play again,” Juhnke said. “We just want to extend our season.
“We’re pushing to go 1 and 0, and we’re having a lot of fun doing it.”
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