VERMILLION, S.D. (KELO) — The USD volleyball team is back in the NCAA tournament for the second straight season as the Coyotes drew Big Ten power Minnesota in the opening round.
USD swept Omaha in the Summit League tournament championship to qualify for the NCAA tournament.
“It feels amazing. I think the last four years, we’ve been in the NCAA tournament three times and I think that is a real good sign of where this program is at right now and where we hope to continue to be at,” USD head coach Leanne Williamson said. “It’s exciting. This is something you work for all season.”
The Coyotes will meet 12 seed, Minnesota, who enter Friday’s contest with a 20-8 record.
“They’re going to present some challenges that maybe we haven’t seen consistently throughout the year, but we have played some really high level teams already in the preseason, which I think definitely prepares us for this moment as well,” Williamson said.
USD has already met two teams that will play in the national tournament, including Creighton and the tournament’s top-seed, Louisville.
“We played a lot of tough teams in conference and preseason as well. We played teams like Louisville and Creighton, so we know what it’s like to matchup against someone who is a little bit taller than us and a little more physical than us, but I think we’re just excited for the opportunity,” USD junior Brooklyn Bollweg said.
“I think it helps a lot with nerves and just understanding that they are like any other team. Obviously, they’re a very good team, but it just needs to be broken down to the mentality of we’re just playing another team and not to add any extra pressure to us,” USD senior Lolo Weideman said.
The Coyotes will matchup fairly well to Minnesota’s size, but will still be challenged facing one of the country’s top attackers and back-to-back Big Ten Player of the Year Stephanie Samedy.
“Our best two pick blockers are on the outside, so that actually does matchup with you know, obviously Samedy on the right side,” Williamson said. “Our middles can be big, so in terms of size, we’re not totally oversized. We’re not totally overmatched in that way. It’s just, can we play that game at that high level.”
While what the Gophers bring to the court is a challenge, USD’s focus remains playing their brand of volleyball.
“We don’t want to play down to a level. We don’t need to mimic somebody else’s pace or their style of play or their style of energy, we just need to be us,” Williamson said. “I do think it’s really important going into this week of remembering who we are, why we’re playing this game and what some of those keys are within our own program to have that success.”
The Coyotes and Golden Gophers will cross paths on Friday at 7 p.m. You can follow the action on KELOLAND.com with our live blog.