When the University of Sioux Falls volleyball team (4-1) needed a boost midway through the first set of Wednesday night's victory over Dakota Wesleyan (2-7) in a steamy Stewart Center, the Cougars and second-year head coach Joel McCartney turned to senior Sarah Kohler to guide the team to a home-opening victory.
The former Lincoln High School star had big plays at the net to win the first set 25-22 and lead the Cougars to the 3-0 win in front of the largest crowd to witness a USF volleyball match in several years.
Kohler finished the match with a match-high 12 kills on 18 attacks, with only two errors, for a remarkable .556 hitting average.
"Sarah has grown a lot over the last two years," McCartney said. "To see her with 12 kills and leading the team in attempts, it lets us get into the most aggressive system we train for, and I attribute that to her hard work and experience.”
"She did great tonight."
Freshman Kellee Griese had a career-high nine kills, while Emily Johnson contributed nine kills and eight digs. Samantha Lovell posted six kills on 11 swings for a .545 clip and also led the Cougars with three total blocks.
Alexa Reed led the match with 37 assists and her three aces capped off a team total of four in the match.
Dating back to last season the Cougars are now 11-4 in their last 15 matches. USF is 7-1 against DWU since 2008 and has only dropped one set in its last seven matches versus their former conference rival.
The Cougars fell behind early through the opening set and were down, 8-7, before going on a 10-1 run that included three kills by Kohler to put USF in front 17-10. DWU fifth-year head coach Eric Viney called timeout to settle his team down, but the stunned Tigers were unable to cut the deficit to less than three point and the Cougars closed out the set 25-22.
USF jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second set and never looked back to cruise to the 25-14 win. The Cougars out-hit the Tigers .586 to .053 in the second stanza.
The visiting Tigers opened the third set looking for a spark and went in front 11-10 after consecutive errors by the Cougars. The two teams remained close before two kills by Kohler gave USF some breathing room, 20-17, before three DWU attack miscues and stabs by Johnson and sophomore middle blocker Samantha Lovell helped the Cougars tally five of the final seven points to clinch the match.
“We had a wonderful crowd and we want to thank the people who came out to support us tonight,” McCartney added. “I think that ramped our nerves up a little bit, but we grinded it out and I’m pleased with the 3-0 win.”
USF heads to Kansas City, Mo., this weekend to compete in the Avila University Invite. The Cougars open tournament play against Oklahoma City University at 11 a.m. on Friday and follow that with matches versus Harris-Stowe, Haskell and Bethel College.
Courtesy: Steph Pendrys, USF