The Augustana Viking volleyball team, led by junior Courtney Ysker and company, stayed perfect this weekend in the inaugural NSIC Challenge.
The tournament, hosted by Augustana College and University of Sioux Falls, welcomed six out-of-town schools to the Elmen and Stewart Centers.
The Vikings won all four of their matches in the two-day event, improving to 8-0 in the early season.
Augustana jumped to a 3-0 sweep (25-12, 25-19, 25-22) over South Dakota School of Mines and Technology Friday morning. Senior Holly Hafemeyer dominated the net with 17 kills. Freshman Brittany Cech played well in her first game as a Viking, racking up 16 kills in addition to 11 digs and a block.
Sophomore setter, Marissa Johnson, started on her way to a tournament-leading 177 assists with 52 in the first of four games. Johnson earned a spot on the all-tournament team.
“I have to give most of the credit to the passers and hitters,” Johnson said. “The hitters are able to terminate quickly, and that’s the biggest key to our success. Getting hitters one-on-one is one of the biggest keys to our success.”
Augustana improved to 5-0 with the win and started to prepare for the Drury Panthers later that same night.
“Tight ‘n’ Bright” Augieholics created an awakened liveliness in the crowd that came out Friday night.
“With all of our awesome fans and the crazy, amazing Augieholics, the energy and atmosphere in the Elmen Center is the best there is to play in,” Hafemeyer said. “We have the best fans in the conference by far.”
Hafemeyer, also an all-tournament team selection, led the team with a .435 attack percentage on 12 kills.
Junior and high-flying tournament MVP, Courtney Ysker, slammed down 18 kills past the Panther defense in the 3-0 sweep.
“I couldn’t have done it without my teammates,” Ysker said.
“Holly [Hafemeyer], being as threatening as she is, pulls a lot of blocks for me, which opens up my net putting me against a solo block. Marissa [Johnson] is such an athletic setter. I always know I’ll get a good set no matter what.”
At the end of Friday, Augustana remained the only team without a lost set. The Vikings faced Northwest Missouri State, one of three unbeaten teams left in the field, Saturday afternoon.
Augustana won the first set, 25-16, but fell in the second, 27-25. Cech and Brittany Wallerich strung together scoring rallies, helping Augustana win the third and fourth sets (25-18, 25-17).
Ysker and Hafemeyer both tallied 19 kills to carry the Viking offensive attack, but a 6’3” (wing-span not considered) Hafemeyer raised the net on defense, recording a career-high 11 blocks to shut down the Bearcats.
“Blocking really comes down to hard work and footwork,” Hafemeyer said. Her height, a confirmed, “6’3” and proud of it,” might also contribute to her success at the net.
Augustana wrapped up the tournament with a sweep of Missouri Western State Saturday night, with a 4-0 tournament record.
Head coaches of both Augustana and USF agreed teaming up for the tournament was a good call.
“I know there is a huge rivalry within Sioux Falls, and once we get into conference play it will be like any other conference match for us. But we have a big picture in mind, and that’s how we can get teams to come to Sioux Falls,” Augustana’s head coach Ashley Buckley said. “It benefits both of our schools to be able to host regional teams.”
The co-host of the tournament, University of Sioux Falls, also won all four games in the first NSIC Challenge.
“The rivalry for us is within the lines of the volleyball court and it ends there,” University of Sioux Falls head coach Joel McCartney said.
“The Augustana and University of Sioux Falls coaching staffs are friends and enjoy a healthy relationship outside the competitions. It was a privilege to work with Ashley [Buckley] and her administration in hosting this event, and we hope to make it an annual offering.”
Augustana’s tournament wins improved the squad’s record to 8-0. University of Sioux Falls sits at 7-1 on the season.
The in-town rivals face each other Saturday, Sept. 21 at 4 p.m. in the Stewart Center at the University of Sioux Falls.