IOWA CITY, Iowa - South Dakota State dominated the second and third sets of Saturday's finale against Valparaiso at the Hawkeye Challenge, but the Crusaders fought just hard enough to win the first, fourth and fifth sets to secure the 3-2 win by the set scores of 25-23, 15-25, 16-25, 25-18 and 15-8.
"Our offensive execution was not very crisp this afternoon. We needed to do a better job today at stressing the defense across the net, but we'll get back after it in the gym on Monday," head coach Phil McDaniel said. "It's good to get two wins and now we need to get prepared for matches next weekend."
The loss drops the Jackrabbits to an even 2-2 on the season, while Valpo improves to 2-1, with a match against the host Hawkeyes on the slate for Saturday night.
Morgan Beil led a trio of Valpo players with double figure kills with 12. Ellen Vanden Berg and Kelsey Victor both finished with 11. Taylor Root led the Crusader defense with 22 digs.
Neither team could really get into system in the first set, which resulted eight ties and four lead changes. No team led by more than two points, until Valpo took a 17-14 lead midway through the set. The Jacks came back to tie the set at 22 and 23-all, but the back-to-back Jackrabbit attack errors gave the set win to Valpo.
Things turned around quickly in the second set, as the Jacks opened on a 5-1 run, and quickly turned that into a 10-3 lead that they would not relinquish, en route to a 25-15 win. SDSU hit just .192 in the set, but held the Crusaders to a .000 hitting percentage, with just eight kills and as many errors.
The third set started much like the second, with a Jackrabbit run, this time a 7-1 spurt. Valpo quickly closed the gap with a run of their own to get it to 7-6, but the Jacks regained the momentum, scoring the next eight points to take a commanding 15-6 lead.
The Jacks rolled from there, turning the 8-0 run into a 12-2 run, and never looked back in winning the third set 25-16.
The fourth set looked much like the first, with neither team building any kind of lead. The Jacks did manage to up by two points a 15-13, but Valpo answered with a 6-0 run, and outscored the Jacks 12-5 down the stretch to secure the 25-18 win and force a fifth set.
Valpo's momentum for the fourth set carried over into the final set, as the Crusaders broke away midway through the set, and cruised to a 15-8 win in the set, and a 3-2 match win.
Look for an all-tournament team announcement on GoJacks.com following the conclusion of the tournament on Saturday night.
The Jackrabbits return to action next weekend at the Gonzaga Tournament in Spokane, Wash., starting with the host Bulldogs on Friday at 6 p.m. PT, 8 p.m. CT.