Women's Volleyball

    Coyote volleyball opens The Den with Fort Wayne, Oakland

    <b>Kim Bulaga</b>
    Kim Bulaga

    Sept. 20, 2012

    KAOR-FM Live Broadcast

    VERMILLION, S.D. - With over 5000 miles of travel in a little under a month, the Coyotes will finally come home to "The Den".

    The South Dakota volleyball team (7-6, 1-1) will show off its new court this weekend with a pair matches against conference foes Fort Wayne and Oakland.  Fort Wayne (11-3, 1-1) will visit the DakotaDome on Friday for a 7 p.m. match, and Oakland (8-5, 1-1) drops in on Sunday for a 2 p.m. start time.

    The new wooden court, nicknamed The Den, is located on the west balcony of the DakotaDome.  It replaces the tile court that was on the dome floor and will add to the game atmosphere by bringing fans closer to the action.

    "The entire program is very excited and anxious to play in The Den," head coach Matt Houk said.  "We feel like it is our home.  We own it and take responsibility for it, and we will do everything we can to defend it."

    Wins to christen The Den will be no small task this weekend.  While both Oakland and Fort Wayne are 1-1 in Summit League play, both have winning records and swept South Dakota last season.

    "Fort Wayne and Oakland are very formidable opponents," Houk said.   "We do not take them lightly, and we are doing are best to prepare to have success against them.  We are extremely excited to be playing at home in front of our fans, and we plan on putting the kind of effort on the floor that will make them proud to be a `Yote."

    Despite that, the Coyotes have some optimism heading into this weekend.  Kendall Kritenbrink (Gretna, Neb.) was named the Summit League's Offensive Player of the Week on Monday, and strong play defensively by Kim Bulaga (Crystal Lake, Ill.) last weekend adds to a defense that has struggled at times this season. 

    All team defenses will need to be ready as the top-three offenses in the conference will be at the dome.  Fort Wayne leads the conference in points per set with 17.8 while Oakland ranks second at 16.4. South Dakota follows in third at 16.3.

    Fort Wayne has the best defender in the conference in Tessa McGill.  McGill averages over six digs per set (6.28).  Offensively, Emily Spencer leads a relatively balanced attack with 4.0 kills pet set, which is third best in the conference.  Four more players average over two kills per set.

    The Coyotes will hope to counter that attack with a pair of top-10 attackers.  Kritenbrink is second in kills per set at 4.25, and Amber Aschoff (Ankeny, Iowa) is sixth at 3.2 kills per set.

    The Coyotes will also see another strong offensive duo on Saturday.   Oakland's Meghan Bray leads the conference in kills per set at 4.7 and Taylor Humm is ninth at 2.96.  Brittany Holbrook could affect the Coyote attack, as she ranks fifth in blocks at 1.02.

    After this weekend, the Coyotes will have their last out of conference game of the season on Tuesday at Creighton.

    About Fort Wayne:  Fort Wayne, 11-3 this season, was chosen to finish second in the conference this season behind North Dakota State, and is in the top-five in the conference in all stat categories but errors and block assists.  Earlier this season, they took Michigan State to five sets and topped Georgia, 3-1.  Their only other losses have been to Cleveland State and Oakland. 

    About Oakland:  After losing their first three, the Grizzlies have won eight of their last 10.  They lost at home to Western Illinois in five sets on Monday for their first conference loss of the season.  So far, they have seen a three major conference schools (Oregon State, Kansas State, Iowa), but got a win against Iowa in five sets on Sep. 1.  They have been active offensively by ranking second in the conference in kills (13.6 per set), but outside of Holbrook, are pretty quiet in the blocking stat.  They are eighth in the conference with 1.75 blocks per set. 

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