VERMILLION, S.D. (KELO)- The USD women are once again, off to a great start in the Summit League. The Yotes are a perfect 5-0 in conference play and much of that success can be credited to the team’s preparation.
“I think it just comes down to how much time we put in, in the off-season, summer, preseason and then the tough non-conference we’ve had, playing some of the top teams in the country. Coming in and knowing we have the target on our back this year, so we need to come in strong and take it to them right away,” Madison McKeever said.
“With our experience this year, I think we understand how well the summit league can both shoot the ball inside and shoot it from the arch. So I think all of the attentiveness to how good these teams are at really spacing the floor and shooting it and getting it inside, is something that we are better prepared for this year,” Dawn Plitzuweit said.
Now the Coyotes will carry their undefeated conference record to Vermillion, where they will host the SDSU Jackrabbits, which is always a special game.
“I guess for me, it’s just how much this place gets filled up and seeing all of the red around, even though there is blue in some sections, but for us, it is how much fan support we have, in such a small town. For us, it’s just working as a team and staying focused,” McKeever said.
“We have some of the best fans in the country, we always say that and they come out in full force when we play the Jacks. It’s definitely a really fun rivalry to be apart of and it’s crazy that it is the last time getting to be apart of that here, but I’m excited. Every year that I’ve gotten to play in that game, it’s just a super, awesome environment and I would expect that this year will probably be no different,” Ciara Duffy said.
SDSU has had to deal with a lot of adversity this season. Along with graudating their top two scorers in Maddie Guebert and Macy Miller, the Jacks have had to fight through injury as only two players have played in all of their games this season.
“It’s been unpredictable. That’s the word I would use when it comes to rotations for this year. I give the players so much credit for playing through that, because those things can be frustrating and those things can be hard to deal with and not just the person with the injury, because the whole team has to shift and adjust,” Aaron Johnston said.
The Jacks are off to a perfect 6-0 start in Summit league play. Some of that success can be credited to Senior Paiton Burckhardt who is leading the team in scoring, by averaging nearly 15 points per contest.
“Paiton has always been a really good player. In high school, she was really accomplished, very successful at South Dakota State, part of a really successful team last year, but she had to do it in more of a supporting role and I think that was probably perfect for her that year. So now this year, she has to transition into more of a leader when it comes to scoring and on floor things and her confidence has really grown as the year has gone on,” Johnston said.
Now the Jackrabbits will take their perfect record on the road as they prepare for a match-up with in state rival, USD.
“We’ve played well down in Vermillion over the years, but we’ve come up just a few possessions short too many times and we want to find a way to get over that hump. They’re really good this year. They shoot the ball well from the perimeter, they can score inside, they rebound well and defend well. They do all of the things that you would expect one of the top teams to do. So it’s going to be a great challenge and they always have great atmosphere down there, but we’re look forward to those challenges and they’re not new to us,” Johnston said.
Scouting the Jackrabbits will change this year as the Coyotes don’t have to worry about Miller or Guebert. However, USD knows that they can’t overlook this young SDSU squad.
“It is definitely different scouting them this year versus the last couple years, because we were obviously focusing a lot on those two, but it’s not to say that this team isn’t still very lethal, because they’ve pulled some big ones. They beat Notre Dame over Thanksgiving I think it was and this team is dangerous and so we’re going into this game, scouting them and we’re going into this game with the same kind of intensity that we have in the past,” Duffy said.
“They are a well coached team and they use their personnel to best suit who they have and so I think they are doing a very good job of getting the ball inside in a lot of different ways. Whether that’s through pass penetration or whether it’s through dribble penetration or it’s penetrate and kick opportunities. They are spacing the floor and shooting it really, really well,” Plitzuweit said.
On Saturday, the Yotes and Jacks will add yet another chapter to the South Dakota Showdown Series and like most seasons, first place in the Summit League is up for grabs.
“When the teams are this familiar with each other, I do think it comes down to who can execute better, who can take care of the ball and find the right shots, and then it just comes down to made shots and missed shots. When you play teams that are really good and the games are tight, whoever can make some big baskets in key moments, usually ends up winning the game,” Johnston said.
“But it’s really, who can perform at a very high level and knowing what the other team or expecting what the other team is going to throw at you. How do you execute at a very high level,” Plitzuweit said.
The Jacks and Yotes will cross paths on Saturday in Vermillion. Tip-off is set for 1:00.