SIOUX FALLS, S.D (September 21, 2013)– Down two sets to none to their crosstown rival, the University of Sioux Falls volleyball team staged a huge comeback to defeat Augustana College in a five-set thriller (25-27, 25-27, 25-23, 28-26, 15-13) Saturday afternoon at the Stewart Center.
The victory is the first for USF (8-2, 1-1 NSIC) over the Vikings in more than 30 years. Augustana (8-2, 0-2) had won the last 14 matchups with the Cougars posting just one set since the streak began in 1981.
With the win, USF clinches the first point of the 2013-14 First Dakota National Bank Mayor's Cup Challenge. The Mayor's Cup is an annual rivalry trophy that will go to the school that wins the most head-to-head competitions amongst 16 common sports.
"It was a lot of fun," said junior Emily Johnson, who finished with 19 kills and 12 digs for her first double-double of the season. "We hadn't beaten them in recent history so it was great to get a big conference win and to play really well against Augie."
There were career-bests across the board for the Cougars, who improved to 12-21 all-time against Augustana.
It was only fitting that junior middle blocker Samantha Lovell recorded the match-winning kill for the Cougars. The Bellevue native racked up 20 kills—five better than her previous career-best—and hit .450 with five total blocks. Kate Hart set a new career-best with 19 kills to go along with three solo blocks.
The Cougars hit .314 in the match thanks in large part to a career-best 62 set assists from senior setter Alexa Reed. Andrea Odbert dug out 27 Viking shots.
Augustana was led by Holly Hafemeyer and Courtney Ysker who both recorded career-highs in kills with 25 and 24, respectively and Marissa Johnson set a new career-best with 69 assists in the loss.
The Cougars got out to a red-hot start in the first set, going up 10-4 with a Jordan Calef block. The Vikings battled back and eventually tied the set at 15-all and took their first lead of the set at 23-22 on a stuff by Brittany Cech. Augustana had game point at 24-23 after a Cech kill, but USF tied it up and the set went to extra points. The Vikings pulled ahead for good at 26-25 and went up 1-0 with a set-clinching ace.
The Vikings jumped out early in the second set, with a USF attack error giving the visitors the 8-3 advantage. The lead was six for Augustana at 12-6 before the Cougars' went on a tear of their own, taking eight of the next 12 points to cut the deficit to 16-14 and force the Vikings to call a timeout. Augustana had set point at 24-22 but USF earned the sideout on a Lovell kill and Andrea Odbert followed with an ace to extend the set. The sides traded points before back-to-back Ysker kills gave Augustana a 2-0 lead with a 27-25 victory in set two.
Things looked bleak for the Cougars, as Augustana entered the contest with a 6-0 record in matches they won the first two sets.
"We knew we were in it and we were playing good enough to win in the first two sets but we weren't quite finishing," said Johnson. "We knew if we just focused on the little things and finished that we were going to be right there the rest of the way."
In the third set, the Cougars stormed to a 9-2 lead after a Johnson ace. The Vikings clawed away at the gap and used a 12-5 run to tie the set at 14-14. It stayed back-and-forth until a Lovell kill made it 22-21 to give USF a lead it would retain for the rest of the set. The Vikings closed within on at 24-23 before Johnson blasted one off an AC back row player to give USF the set at 25-23.
The fourth set closely mirrored the third as USF jumped out a 9-3 lead with a Calef kill. Later, Kate Hart's back row spike gave the Cougars a six-point cushion at 18-12. But once again, the Vikings came all the way back and things were knotted at 24-24 thanks to a Cougar attack miscue. The next four points were split before a Hart kill and then an block by Calef and Michelle Ritland provided the exclamation point to the Cougars' 28-26 win and sent the match to a decisive fifth set.
A service error gave the Cougars a 4-1 lead in the final set before consecutive Hart kills pushed USF's margin to 7-3. The Vikings closed to within one point at 9-8 and turned aside two match point serves at 14-12 and 14-13. Leading 14-13, the Cougars saw a fitting end, as Lovell slammed down a high set from Reed to finish the comeback.
USF out-hit the Vikings .346-.226 in a fifth set where they committed a single attack error. The Cougars held a 12-9 advantage in blocks and out-dug Augustana, 85-70.
Calef finished with 10 kills and four blocks while Ritland had nine kills and a match-high .562 hitting clip.
"Our crowd was awesome, it was a really exciting environment to play in today," Johnson added. "It was great to fight back and get the win at home."
The Cougars will host No. 10 Southwest Minnesota State on Tuesday with first serve scheduled for 7 p.m.