South Dakota women’s basketball alumna Bridget Yoerger will make her way across the pond this fall to be inducted to the Henry Heider Coyote Sports Hall of Fame on Sept. 10.
Yoerger is perhaps USD’s most tenured professional basketball player as she has signed on with Luxembourg’s Musel Pikes for another season. It will be her 13th professional season, 11th year in Luxembourg and fifth with the Musel Pikes.
“I need to have a reason to stop playing,” Yoerger explained.
She does what she loves – both playing basketball and teaching at the International School of Luxembourg. She enjoys being in central Europe and spends her free time traveling – being only three hours from Paris or four hours from Amsterdam doesn’t hurt.
Yoerger has garnered all-league honors each year of her professional career. She earned Luxembourg’s Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2021 and was named the Luxembourg Center of the Year for the third time of her career. Yoerger is nearing 4,000 points and 3,000 rebounds in Luxembourg, averaging a double-double all 11 seasons.
The journey for this now-Luxembourger began 16 years ago in the college town of Vermillion, South Dakota, with the guidance of Coyote coach Chad Lavin.
“When I first came to USD, I had no idea what my potential was,” Yoerger said. “Working with Lavin, he made me realize how much potential I actually had and he gave me that chance starting with my freshman year. He actually started me that very first game as a freshman and from then on it’s always stuck with me that if I work hard and put in the time and energy, that anything is possible.”
Yoerger was a four-year starter for the Coyotes. She graduated as USD’s second-leading scorer with 1,605 points and remains fourth on USD’s all-time rebounds list with 884. She remains on USD’s top-10 list for both blocked shots (101) and steals (176).
She was a key piece to the Coyotes’ run to the 2008 NCAA Division II championship game.
The Coyotes won 31-straight games over a five-month span. USD got to cut down the nets for the NCC Tournament and then the NCAA Regional, both held inside the DakotaDome. Once the Coyotes reached the Division II’s Elite Eight, a trip to Kearney, Nebraska, followed.
“The run we had my junior season was unforgettable,” Yoerger said. “I think about that all the time, all the memories when they pop up on Facebook with all of those old pictures and such. My best memory in college was going to Kearney and seeing everyone with the Coyote red – it felt like a home game. Even though we lost, it was a week that you don’t forget.”
The run we had my junior season was unforgettable. I think about that all the time, all the memories when they pop up on Facebook with all of those old pictures and such.
South Dakota defeated Washburn in the first game in double-overtime – or what felt like triple-overtime according to Yoerger as the game kept getting extended – before knocking off top-ranked Delta State in the semifinals. The Coyotes ultimately fell to Northern Kentucky in the championship game to finish as the 2008 NCAA Division II Runner-Ups.
Yoerger has many great memories of her time at South Dakota and a fond appreciation for the cornerstone of Coyote athletics, The DakotaDome.
“I loved the Dome,” Yoerger said. “The feeling of going to football games in the fall, and then seeing the facilities staff roll up the turf and put the basketball court down. It was like your time to have the Dome now.
“We would spend so much time there, before practice, after practice, just hanging out in the locker room or in the ice bath bugging the trainers. I have so many great memories with friends spent in the Dome.”
The last time Yoerger made her way back to Vermillion, the Sanford Coyote Sports Center had not yet opened.
A new basketball facility is just one of many changes to USD’s campus over the past decade, many brought on by the University’s transition to NCAA Division I that began her senior year. In her final year as a Coyote, Yoerger was a leader of a squad ineligible for postseason as the transition to Division I began. The Coyotes also had a new coach and faced an independent schedule. She took it all in stride, going on to earn all-independent honors.
“The hardest part was that at the end of the season, not getting to play for another Division II Championship,” Yoerger said. “The younger players would get a chance to compete in Division I, but for our senior class it was more of just playing for fun that last year. What kind of made it worth it was that the very last game of the season we played North Carolina in the Dean Smith Center. And almost beating them, like it was a really close game and it was so fun.”
The Coyotes’ gave No. 11 North Carolina all they had in that season finale, nearly pulling an upset with a 15-point lead in the second half and ultimately falling 75-69. Yoerger and her teammates formed the building blocks for a program that has since made 11 consecutive postseason appearances, including four NCAA Tournaments, at the Division I level.
Yoerger joins an elite group as the 22nd women’s basketball player inducted to the Henry Heider Coyote Sports Hall of Fame.