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The Gonzaga University suffered its first home loss of the season to South Dakota State Friday.
Courtesy: Georgetown Athletics

Volleyball Falls to South Dakota State In A Thriller

Courtesy: Gonzaga Athletics
          Release: 08/31/2012
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SPOKANE, Wash. - In the nightcap of the Gonzaga Invitational, the Gonzaga University Bulldogs dropped a five set thriller to South Dakota State University (25-17, 25-22, 22-25, 27-29, 15-13) to drop to 1-3 on the season.

"We have three freshmen on the court a lot," said fourth year head coach Dave Gantt. "So we have to be very proud of the level of play they brought all night. The disappointing part is when you get freshman in those situations at critical sets late in the match; they just do not have the experience to make adjustments quickly enough to close it out."

Not closing out was the problem that persisted late in the match for the Bulldogs, but early on it seemed the Zags would run away with a win.

The Bulldogs made quick work of the Jackrabbits in the first set. Led by redshirt freshman Savannah Blinn and her seven kills, the Zags jumped to a quick 15-8 lead. From there, the Bulldogs continued to pull away and closed the set with a kill down the line from true freshman Jordan Gasser.

"I think Savannah is the one we want to get the ball to in a number of situations," Gantt said. "Her effectiveness is set by how effective we run the middle. There were a lot of times in the first two sets that she was one-one because we ran the middle so well."

In a much tighter second set, junior middle blocker Meredith Crenshaw stepped up and energized the team and the crowd. In the set, Crenshaw had six kills on nine attempts, the crowd roaring with each. The Yorba Linda, Cali., native stepped up defensively in the set as well and was involved in two critical blocks.

"Meredith, when she is playing big like she was, can quickly turn an emotional wave our direction," Gantt said. "We just need to keep getting her the ball."

In the third, Gonzaga and South Dakota State battled back and forth until the end. A mix of errors and missed opportunities hurt the Bulldogs chances. In the first two sets the Zags killing percent was .361 and .389, but that fell dramatically to .178 in the first set won by the Jackrabbits.

"We have to keep working at it," Gantt said. "These are not obstacles, just minor irritants that with the right coaching and expectations will be overcome."

The Bulldogs nearly clinched the match in a back-and-forth fourth set. Both Gonzaga and South Dakota State had their share of the lead but when the score was tied 27-27, the Jackrabbits successfully defended the Gonzaga attack and closed the set.  

                "We won the big points in the first two sets but failed to do so in the third, fourth and fifth," Gantt said. "Those are a direct result of being fatigued and not serve receiving as well as we should."

During the fifth and final set, the score was tied a total of ten times. The Jackrabbits finished the nail biter by winning three of the last four points leaving the Bulldogs stunned.

Gonzaga will not have time to dwell on the tough loss however, coach Gantt and his staff is telling the team that the whole tournament will not turn out this way.

"I think, like us coaches told them in the locker room, we disappointed because we did not finalize on this opportunity," Gantt said. "The good thing is we play early tomorrow morning and we do not have to think about this very long. We need to wash it off, reset, come back in the morning to watch video and get ready to play.

"I'm encouraged, we are doing a lot of things right now that we were not doing last year at all."

The Bulldogs return to action Saturday at 9 a.m. against UC Riverside and then close out the tournament with in-state rival Eastern Washington University at 6 p.m.

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