SIOUX FALLS— In an emotional senior night match at the Stewart Center, the University of Sioux Falls Volleyball Team (18-8, 13-5 NSIC) swept the defending national champions No. 1 Concordia-St. Paul (21-6, 15-3 NSIC), 3-0 (25-15, 25-19, 25-23) for their 12th win in the last 15 matches.
The victory represented one of the biggest accomplishments in the NCAA DII era for the Cougars. It was the second time USF has defeated a ranked opponent this year and the second time in program history that USF has defeated a team ranked No. 1 in the AVCA DII national poll. In 2016, USF defeated Minnesota Duluth on the road, 3-2. USF also recorded their first-ever win over CSP.
With this win, USF retained fifth place in the NSIC standings and clinched a top-six spot in the NSIC Conference Tournament which begins Tuesday, Nov. 6. USF trails Southwest Minnesota State by one game as the Cougars stand 13-5 while SMSU is 14-4. USF, which has won three straight matches for the third time this season, will look to continue their NSIC hot-streak next Friday (Nov.2) when they travel to Winona State and Upper Iowa on Nov. 2-3 to close out the regular season.
USF Head Coach Joel McCartney was proud of how well his team played on senior night.
"I've been coaching for 20 years and I couldn't have dreamed of a better senior night for these athletes. They have worked incredibly hard to make this moment happen, and I'm just honored to be a part of it. I am so proud of them," said McCartney, whose team finished with a 7-3 home record.
"We prepared our schedule in a way that we would be able to be in these type of moments later in the season," said McCartney. "We battled ranked opponents early and while, we didn't come out on top, those matches prepared up for these big-time situations like against SMSU earlier and Concordia St. Paul tonight."
USF has reached 18 wins in a season for the third time as a DII program. USF is one win away from matching the 2013 and 2016 teams for most wins in a season. However, USF's 13 league wins matches the 2016 Cougars team for most in the DII program era.
In the victory, USF had one of its best nights of hitting this season. The Cougars hit .456, which is the third best mark of the season. USF, which converted 48 kills on 90 attempts, put together a .400 hitting percentage for the fifth time this season. USF's defense also stepped up with six total blocks while holding the Golden Bears to a .177 hitting percentage.
On Senior Night, it was fitting that a senior played a pivotal role. Senior Bria Barfnecht led the USF offense in both kills and hitting percentage. She posted 15 kills on 20 attempts for a hitting percentage of .750 in the match. Barfnecht also recorded six digs and three block assists on the night. Sophomore Averey Yaksich added another double digit kill match, accumulating 10 kills on 17 attempts for a hitting percentage of .529 while also amassing eight digs and two block assists.
Sophomore setter Krista Goerger continued her impressive season with 42 assists, four digs, and one block assist. Goerger continually placed the ball in the perfect spot for USF attackers, which led to USF's high hitting mark.
USF took an early 10-7 lead in the opening set as Barfnecht registered a trio of kills. USF continued to control the set after consecutive kills by seniors Makenna Rockeman and Lexi Scott pushed the lead to 15-9. From there, USF had a four-point run for a 20-11 lead and took a 1-0 set lead by winning three of the final four points. 15-9 mid-way through the set. After a four-point run increased their lead to 20-11, USF won three of the last four points for a 25-15 decision. USF outhit CSP, .553-to-.114 in the opening set.
In the second set, USF had a match-high .560 hitting percentage with 16 kills on 25 attempts. While CSP jumped to a 5-3 lead, the Cougars quickly gained control with a 6-1 run. A kill by junior Abby Feyereisen helped USF take a 21-15 lead. Barfnecht stepped up with two kills in the final four points to give USF a 25-19 win and a 2-0 lead in the match.
USF continued to hit the ball with efficiency by registering a .314 mark in the third set with 15 kills on 35 attacks. While CSP had 13 kills, they hit just .176 in the final set. The Cougars opened up an 11-7 lead and later used a three-point run for a 16-11 advantage. CSP battled back with three straight points to draw within, 16-14. Eventually, they took a 21-19 lead. However before a home crowd roaring its approval, USF tied the match at 22 on a kill by Barfnecht. She tied the match again with a kill and then Rockeman capped off the win with two consecutive kills to clinch the match and earn USF its biggest win at home in school history.