The USD women deal with a struggling team tonight and finish off the regular season on Sunday afternoon with a Jackrabbit team that has flattened almost all in its Summit League path. As one of 37 teams in the conference with a 6-6 record, a home sweep this weekend could make that first-round tournament game a little tastier, but USD has a 1-1 record against all of its likely first-round opponents. Denver hasn’t had the season that Fort Wayne and Western Illinois have had, but they beat USD once this year.
After starting the Summit season 0-4, USD has won six of its last eight and will be a heavy favorite at the Dome tonight to beat a Bison team that is looking for a new coach. The Bison were at the front of that turnaround when the Coyotes beat them in Fargo on Jan. 30.
Since then, the Coyotes lost at SDSU, where everyone loses, and at Omaha last weekend. USD defeated the Mavericks easily in their previous meeting at the Dome so that effort was both surprising and disappointing for a team that had shown consistent improvement up to last week. The Coyotes resumed with the turnaround, however, last Saturday by beating Western Illinois.
“They were the only team that came in and beat us at the Dome this year,” said junior Lisa Loeffler. “It was nice to take one right back at them. Now we have some momentum going into the week, which definitely helps.”
USD leads the Summit in scoring and is second in rebounds per game, so the numbers are beginning to add up after the dreadful start. Game-by-game, however, the Bison represent another opportunity to show that issues in Omaha were a blip and not a sign of regression.
“The big thing for us is to use that Omaha game as a learning experience,” USD Amy Williams said this week. “We have to understand we have to come out with an energy and intensity about us that has to last 40 minutes. I thought we did that at Western and played with a little more sense of urgency.”
It’s a lesson that can be applied to this evening’s game with the Bison. It’s an opponent that has not fared well against the Coyotes or pretty much anyone else this season, but any trail to earning the third-seed would necessarily include a win tonight.
“The big focus for us has got to remain on NDSU,” USD coach Amy Williams said. “It’s sometimes tough to do that when you have SDSU and the Summit League tournament coming up and senior night coming up, but out team has been really good about locking in a focusing on the next game and that’s not going to change here.”