Prior to Nov. 23, the South Dakota Coyote’s volleyball team had only lost one match all season long.
Since falling to the Iowa State Cyclones 3-0 on Sep. 3, the Coyotes went on an unstoppable run, winning 24 straight matches and going undefeated in Summit League conference play.
So, when the Coyotes met the 18-13 Omaha Mavericks in the semifinals of the Summit League tournament, a win and trip to finals seemed like a formality for them.
The Maverick team had different intentions, however.
In what came as a surprise to anyone other than die-hard Maverick fans, Omaha volleyball knocked off the No. 1 seed Coyotes by a margin of 3-1.
Looking inside the game itself, it seemed early on that things would be par for the course, as South Dakota got out to a hot start in set one, taking a comfortable 25-21 victory to put themselves up 1-0.
Everything changed in the second set, however, as the Mavericks came out with an energy unlike anything else they had displayed that season. Omaha matched the South Dakota intensity stride for stride and the two teams battled back and forth until the Mavericks finally edged it by a score of 28-26.
The momentum swing in the second set would prove to be all the Mavericks would need, as they continued to strongly battle against South Dakota. The third set would also go past 25 points, as the teams battled to a 29-27 victory. Finally, in the crucial fourth set, after going past 25 points yet gain, an error from the Coyotes gave the Mavericks the 3-1 win and a huge upset victory.
With the win, Omaha volleyball advanced to the Summit League tournament for the second time in program history and the first time since 2015. The opponent for the Mavericks was a familiar one, as they faced off against the host Denver Pioneers, the same team that defeated Omaha in the 2015 finals.
Against the Pioneers, Omaha did their best to match their opponents’ energy, but after their match against South Dakota the previous night, there seemed to be little left in the tank. Denver got out to a hot start as they picked up victories in the first two sets by scores of 25-21 and 25-13.
The Mavericks managed to stop the bleeding with a 25-22 victory in the third set. However, it would ultimately not be enough, as the Pioneers would bounce back right in the fourth set with an 25-18 score to win the match 3-1.
With the loss wrapping up the first season of new head coach Matt Buttermore, there was plenty for the Mavericks to enjoy in the first year. Omaha showed promise of the sort of elite volleyball team that they could be at times, most notably in their wins against South Dakota and earlier in the year against Power-5 team Clemson. Next year it seems there should be much promise of the Mavericks building off the success of this year, as they will return all players, with the exception of one senior, Courtney Morehead. Omaha will be eager to return to the Summit League title game next season, hoping that they can go one step further.