VERMILLION, S.D. (KELO) — After a perfect regular season in the Summit League, the USD Volleyball team finished as runner-ups in the National Invitational Volleyball Championship last season. It’s been a long wait for the Coyotes first match since that championship appearance, as the pandemic pushed their fall season back to the winter. But tomorrow, they’ll make their long-awaited return to the court.
For the first time in more than 13 months, USD Volleyball will play a competitive match.
“I don’t always love bus trips, but I will tell you this might be the first bus trip that I’m actually excited for because I know what comes at the end of it,” Head Coach LeAnne Williamson said.
Getting to Friday was a challenge in itself, having to adjust to wearing masks during practice, a revised schedule, and the hardest part to overcome of all, was the uncertainty.
“We were paused, we were un-paused. We could have the coaches in the gym, we couldn’t. We could have our whole team in the gym, we could have six people in the gym,” Sophomore Elizabeth Juhnke said.
The Coyotes took what positives they could out of the situation.
“Usually with the freshman coming in in the fall, we don’t get a chance to get to know them, or for them to really learn the system as well. But I mean with having a whole semester, they don’t even feel like freshman anymore. So I think the whole team’s cohesiveness is really good right now,” Junior setter Madison Jurgens said.
USD will have to replace the defensive abilities of Mehana Fonseca and Anne Rasmussen. They’ll look to returners Lolo Weideman and Brooklyn Bollweg to help fill that void.
“Lolo was on the court for three rotations last year, did a lot of really, really good things for us. Brooklyn had come in as a serving sub and really started to kind of figure out our defense and just how to really contribute,” Williamson said.
Four of the Coyotes’ top five attackers are back, led by outside hitters Elizabeth Juhnke and Sami Slaughter.
“Now we’ve got even more people that are returning that have even more experience and have gotten better. And I think just across the board, we have the ability to be very efficient,” Williamson said.
All that’s left now, is to just get out and play.
“I’m not usually one that gets nervous a lot, but I’ve even been thinking about it. Like wow, we’re going to finally play again, getting a little bit nervous,” Jurgens said.
The Coyotes were picked as the preseason favorites in the Summit League coaches’ poll. They’ll play the first of their four non conference matches tomorrow against Wichita State before opening Summit League play on February 7th.