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USD wins Summit League tournament

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SIOUX FALLS, South Dakota (Courtesy Goyotes.com) - South Dakota overcame an 0-2 set deficit to rally past Denver and claim the Summit League tournament title in thrilling fashion on Saturday afternoon inside the Sanford Pentagon.

The Coyotes and Pioneers battled through five rigorous sets, with each team having match points in set five, before ultimately South Dakota would prevail by final tally of 19-25, 26-28. 27-25, 26-24 and 19-17.

It was the first time since 2015 that a team had rallied from an 0-2 deficit to claim the Summit League championships and South Dakota is headed to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three seasons, after outlasting Denver in five sets both of those times.

"I'm excited the grateful that we are the ones that ended up on top," sophomore Elizabeth Juhnke said.

South Dakota (15-6) had three match points up 14-12 in the fifth set and had to overcome a reversal of a call after a Denver challenged that would have on the match at 15-12. Instead it was 14-13 and that turned into a 15-14 Denver lead, giving the top-seed a match point.

Denver (14-3) also had match points at 16-15 and 17-16 before an attack error and back-to-back kills from Juhnke and senior Sami Slaughter touched off a wild celebration for the Coyotes.

Slaughter, who had missed when the score was knotted at 16, came back strong to close it out and send South Dakota to the NCAA's.

"I mean, that was awesome," said Slaughter. "The reason why I took a giant rip at the end of the game was because of Lolo (Weideman).

"I mean I took a swing right before that and it sailed way out. And while I was like, hey, take a big swing and you got it, and I felt like in the back of my mind, that's all I was thinking about and so I just took a big rip."

Juhnke, named tournament MVP, finished with 23 kills and hit .288 while also providing 19 digs and three total blocks. Slaughter, joining Juhnke and Weideman on the all-tourney team, added 20 kills and hit .362.

"So she had missed the first ball as she swung it went out of bounds and I just looked at her and I was like swing again, like rip it away, like no hesitation," said Weideman "She went out and she scored.

"That just shows how gritty we are and to have no fear."

The Coyotes hit .271 in the match and overcame a balanced Denver offensive attack that saw them place six girls in double digits in kills and have 82 kills to South Dakota's 68.

Maddie Wiedenfeld had nine kills, Madison Harms seven and Aimee Adams six as the Coyotes offense, led by Madison Jurgens with 53 assists, hit over .280 in the final three sets, including .395 in set four.

Weideman, a junior in her first season as the libero, had 24 digs and five assists while Jurgens had 14 digs, Adams 11 and Brooklyn Bollweg nine.

"Three out of the five sets in this match went extra points," coach Leanne Williamson said. "It just went to show how high-level volleyball was being played.

"I think both teams were able to create runs in different times in the match."

South Dakota had one set point opportunity in set two, but ultimately fell behind in the match 0-2.

The Coyotes, though, with that backs against the wall mentality, much like when they defeated Creighton on its home floor in five sets after being down 0-2, did it again on the biggest stage in the Summit League championship match.

"The thing that I'm the most proud about with our team is the fact that we're down in almost every single set," Williamson said. "In every single set, we had to fight back and stay gritty and be resilient.

"I think in that situation our backs were against the wall but if you would have caught us in this situation to weeks ago, I think we would have responded very differently. So very proud of how the team responded. Very proud of how they fought until the absolute very end, you know even feeling like we thought we won the game, but we didn't win the match. So having to do it again and them taking the lead and us taking the lead back. We had to make some plays down the stretch and they just stayed very confident and they stayed aggressive you know we talked about yesterday, trust and fearlessness and I felt like it was on full display again tonight."

Devin Reiners

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