In trying to come up with one, overriding theme for University of South Dakota athletics in 2013, I keep coming back to: “Oh so close.”
Progress has come at a slow pace, but it’s easy to see, Coyote sports across the board continued on an upward trajectory this year. A series of near-misses and close losses in many USD sports proved to be the key theme in 2013.
And so, with that in mind, I present to you my personal Top 10 USD Stories For 2013.
1. Dave Boots retires
This piece of news took literally everybody by surprise, from administrators to assistant coaches to players to media and outsiders. The sudden nature of Boots’ retirement (and the fact that it was immediate and not at the end of the season) makes this the easy choice for No. 1.
2. Bethany Buell wins D-I pole vault title
The top-ranked women’s pole vaulter for most of the season, Buell (now Firsick) battled through a torn shoulder ligament to win the Division I national title on her final jump in Eugene, Ore. — cementing herself in USD lore.
3. Athletic facilities receive final approval from Regents
Certain changes had to be made to the basketball/volleyball arena and sports performance facility plans, but getting that final — and expected — approval from the South Dakota Board of Regents was the final bureaucratic hurdle for USD.
4. Women’s basketball advances to Summit League final
In head coach Amy Williams’ first season at the helm, the Coyote women surged to a third-place finish in the Summit League and lost by three points to rival South Dakota State in the championship game in Sioux Falls. Worth mentioning again, the crowd for that game was over 6,000. USD’s Nicole Seekamp was named tournament MVP, becoming the first player from the losing team to earn the honor since 2004.
5. David Herbster named athletic director
When previous A.D. David Sayler bolted for Miami of Ohio (and no, that wasn’t really all that surprising), Herbster was named interim athletic director. A few months later, he was given the job on a permanent basis — pleasing everybody over in Coyote Land.
6. Men’s indoor track wins Summit League title
Toppling North Dakota State in any sport is an achievement in itself, and the Coyote men did that in the sport of indoor track at the 2013 meet held in Vermillion.
7. Kendall Kritenbrink named Summit League volleyball POY
Not that it was much of a surprise, but the USD junior hitter was recognized by the league for dominating the conference all season.
8. Football wins three straight in Missouri Valley
Coming off a 1-10 season in 2012, the Coyotes had lost their first nine Missouri Valley Football Conference games before reeling off three straight wins in October — highlighted by a double overtime triumph at Northern Iowa. USD then lost its final five games to finish the season at 4-8.
9. Volleyball reaches Summit League Tournament semifinals
Appearing ready to cruise into the tournament championship match, the Coyotes, however, saw a 2-0 edge to Denver in the semifinals evaporate in a 3-2 loss.
10. Softball qualifies for Summit League tournament
Picked to finish sixth, the Coyotes bolted out to the No. 3 seed in the 4-team tournament. USD ultimately lost to Kansas City 2-0 in the opener, finishing its season at 29-20.
HONORABLE MENTION: A.D. David Sayler leaves for Miami (Ohio); USD men’s basketball topples rival Jacks at the DakotaDome again; Men’s cross country finishes second at Summit League Championships (women third); diver Greysen Hertting dominates Summit League early in career; John Thayer named radio voice of Coyote women’s basketball; Basketball doubleheader moved to Rapid City; USD holds well-attended Howling Pack gathering in Yankton