By Brad Blume
SDM netters hoping for strong finish to season
Sports Information Director
South Dakota School of Mines
RAPID CITY ---- The South Dakota School of Mines women’s volleyball team finished up its last North Dakota road trip of the regular season this past weekend where the Lady Hardrockers picked up Dakota Athletic Conference wins against Mayville State and Valley City State.
The two victories guarantee the team at least fourth place in the conference standings and SDM will host a first round DAC playoff game. With just four matches left on the schedule, and all at home, the Hardrockers have an opportunity to move further up the rankings depending how the next two weeks go.
This weekend Mines will take on Dakota State and Jamestown College. The Hardrockers are 18-4 on the season, and the Jimmies are one of the three teams to hand the ‘Rockers a loss.
“The first time we played Jamestown we lost to them in five (games). It was a hard fought battle and they are one of our four losses,” said Hardrocker head coach Beth Honaker. “This weekend is different because with a win (over JC) and if BHSU can help us out with a win their way (over JC) then we can move into third place ahead of Jamestown.”
First and second place are pretty much decided, going to Dickinson State (23-3, 10-0 in DAC) and Black Hills State (19-3, 8-2 in DAC) respectively. Once the post season starts the second week of November, the top two teams get byes while the third and fourth seed host the fifth and sixth seed. The winners advance to the DAC semifinals where Honaker hopes to get. Third place would have the Hardrockers playing the No. 6 seed and the weaker bracket at the semifinal tournament. Dickinson State has never lost a DAC tournament crown in the seven years of the league.
“It would be good come conference playoff time, considering if we get past the first round, we wouldn’t have to face Dickinson until the Finals,” she said.
Jamestown won’t be a pushover by any means. The Jimmies have an 18-6 overall record and are 7-3 in the conference.
“They have a lot of offensive threats. They put up a big block on the outside. It is some thing that our Ashley Kauffman (outside hitter) is going to have to face. She is not use to facing a big block,” Honaker said. “They run a really wicked slide off of (outside hitter) Megan Dooley. That is going to poise a threat for our right backs --- Jenny Malone (middle hitter) and Tessa Howe (setter) because they will have to play a lot harder defense in order to cover it.”
In the first meeting back on Sept. 22, the ‘Rockers were down two games and rallied back to tie the match 2-2, only to fall 15-13 in the final frame.
On Saturday, the Lady ‘Rockers face Dakota State. The Lady T’s are 5-21 on the season and post a 1-5 mark in the DAC. South Dakota Mines beat them 3-1 the first time around, but Honaker and the ‘Rockers aren’t taking them lightly. DSU has a very talented outside hitter named Rachael Jensen who seems to be the spark for the Trojans.
“They run her in serve receive and the set her everywhere. She is someone we have to find and make sure we put a block on her.”
Honaker said she is ready for both opponents and after a good tough week of practice she has her girls chomping at the bit to get into volleyball action.
“We had a very productive week of practice thus far,” Honaker said. “They are as hungry right now as they have been this season. We are playing very tough at the net and our defense has always been pretty strong. We are struggling with our serving right now but our passing is on. If our serving is the only thing we are going to struggle with then we will get through it.”
The Hardrockers have a talented roster which would explain all the positive results this season.
Individually, SDM has one of the best libero’s in the nation in Jenny Hiykel (junior from Omaha, Neb.) She has earned four conference, two region and one national libero of the week honor --- the most recent coming this week as she earned both DAC and Region III accolades as well as a national nomination.
Add in hitters Malone, Kauffman and Katherine Hanson and setter Howe along with a good supporting cast and the Hardrockers have a good recipe for success.
“Hiykel is going to have to step up in the back row but that shouldn’t be a problem. Tessa has been making very good decisions setting the ball and distributing the ball well. We will also be relying on our three primary hitters – Ashley, Katherine and Jenny,” Honaker said about the next four matches.
Both matches this weekend have a 7 p.m. start.
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