VERMILLION — If a position battle was what it sought, that’s exactly what the University of South Dakota volleyball team got Saturday night.
Though it was only scheduled to go four sets (unless there was a tie), the program’s annual Red/White scrimmage at the DakotaDome went five sets. Scores were 32-30, 25-17, 19-25, 25-27, 15-10.
Mission accomplished, according to head coach Leanne Williamson.
“We wanted to give everyone a chance to show themselves, especially in front of fans and close to an actual match atmosphere,” she said.
With the season-opening Green Bay tournament looming next weekend, the Coyotes still have a few areas to iron out, Williamson said.
It’s not so much a matter of finding people to fill a certain role, it’s that there are plenty of options at middle blocker, outside hitter and libero, the first-year coach said.
“We’re starting to get there,” Williamson said. “We’ve got some ideas on certain spots, but it was great to see people step up tonight.”
Both teams were credited with 67 kills, while the winning team had five fewer errors. A total of seven players reached double-digit kills in what was a back-and-forth affair.
“That shows we’re ready to compete either way, whichever group is out there,” said junior outside hitter Sydney Dimke, who had a match-high 18 kills on 61 attempts.
“It was nice to have an intense atmosphere.”
With only 13 players to fill 14 positions (seven on each side), the Coyotes had to use graduate assistant Michael Runde as the setter for the red team. He officially finished with 55 set assists, 24 digs and three kills.
Versatility was on full display, according to Dimke — who pointed out that sophomore middle Lindsey Brown moved to outside hitter for the scrimmage.
“It’s nice that we don’t to play the positions we were recruited for, we can play all the way around,” Dimke said.
Also reaching double figures in kills were senior Kendall Kritenbrink (17), freshman Rachel Schmidt (16), sophomore Audrey Reeg (15), junior Kelsey Biltoft (14), senior Melissa Firtko (12) and sophomore Haley Jorgensen (10).
Both liberos had solid performances, as well, with junior Kaitlyn Hastings recording 39 digs and senior Riley Haug finishing with 26.
Aside from Kritenbrink — the reigning Summit League Player of the Year — at outside hitter, the only other position completely locked in is setter, with freshman Brittany Jessen.
The native of Mendota Heights, Minnesota, said later that she was impressed with both team’s ability to score points despite having seen each other every day in practice.
“We all fought for it, like it was a real match,” Jessen said. “We know each other’s shots by now, but we made the best out of it.”
The Coyotes open their season next Friday at the Green Bay Country Inn & Suites Tournament in Green Bay, Wisconsin. USD will face Arizona on Friday, then Kansas State and Green Bay on Saturday.