By Brad Blume
Sports Information Director
South Dakota School of Mines
RAPID CITY --- Despite being the shortest person on the team, South Dakota School of Mines junior volleyball player Jenny Hiykel has one of the biggest roles.
Standing 5-foot-1-inches tall and giving up almost a foot to opponents and teammates alike, Hiykel, a Interdisciplinary Science and Pre-med major, has played a big role in helping the Hardrocker volleyball team to a 14-2 overall record.
Playing in the back row as the team’s defensive specialist at the “libero” position, Hiykel is making quite a name for herself this year. This past Monday marked the third consecutive week that Hiykel was named the Dakota Athletic Conference Libero of the week. She also earned NAIA Region III Libero honors last week as well.
SDM Libero Jennie Hiykel collects one of her many digs during a home match earlier this season. Hiykel has earned three DAC Libero of the Week honors along with a Region III Libero award as well. Photo by Brad Blume
“It’s a really good thing and an honor to get the award three times,” Hiykel said. “It’s something that I never expected and I know that it made my mom really happy.”
First year Hardrocker head coach Beth Honaker never had a doubt in her mind that the Omaha, Neb., native would excel at the position this season.
“To be honest, I am not surprised (that she received those awards). I am very happy she is finally getting the acknowledgement that she deserves,” Honaker said. “She is one of the very few (Hardrockers) that were committed to working out this summer and it has obviously paid off.”
On the season, Hiykel has played in 61 matches, tallying a total of 395 digs so far. She leads the conference in the category and is ranked 15th in the nation for digs per game, averaging almost seven.
“Everything she does makes her a good libero,” Honaker said. “She brings a lot of energy to the team.”
Not only that, Hiykel is currently eighth on the Lady Hardrockers’ Top 10 for total digs in a season with 399. She is well on pace to pass that record and move way up the list.
But setting those records and getting the DAC honors is something that Hiykel doesn’t think about.
“It just happens,” she said. “I just go out there and play.”
That doesn’t mean, however that the three-year starter doesn’t have goals. “This year I want to get DAC Libero of the Year and then next season I hope to get All American honors if I can,” Hiykel said.
And Hiykel, who is also a captain for the Hardrocker netters said that playing for the South Dakota School of Mines is an ideal location to get that goal accomplished
“I am so glad I came to this school. We have awesome fans and a great coach,” Hiykel said.
And her coach feels the same way.
“In a libero role, the smaller the better. They seem to be a lot quicker and they are closer to the ground. She’s ideal for the spot,” Honaker said. “Jenny is the type of athlete any coach would be privileged to have.”
The Hardrockers jumped out to 9-0 record to open the season, one of the best starts in Hardrocker history. Since then they have dropped matches to Black Hills State and Jamestown College. In both instances, the contest went down to the fifth set, where the outcome could have gone either way. Hiykel said one of the reason her team is off to such a good start is due to how much playing time the Hardrockers have had since she joined the team in 2005.
“When I was a freshman, there were nine other freshmen on the team. We started mostly freshmen along with Jennie Malone (who was a sophomore at the time),” Hiykel said. ���We have grown together. Next year is going to be good too because all of us have played together so long.”
Two years ago, the Hardrockers finished the season with just one conference win, last season they finished the DAC schedule with an 8-6 mark and a berth into the DAC tournament after a four-year absence. With 10 matches remaining to play on the regular season schedule, the Hardrockers look to be on pace to return to the DAC tournament, and if Hiykel continues to put up award winning numbers, the little libero will be able to accomplish some big things.
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