Denver Volleyball Gets the Drumstick and Brussel Sprouts on Thanksgiving

While many of us will be enjoying family Thursday, the Summit League is giving DU volleyball (23-5, 14-4) the bird. Denver volleyball travels to Sioux Falls, S.D. as the #3 tournament seed. Omaha earned the regular season #1 seed and a very good South Dakota squad earned the #2 seed. As tradition would have it,  the winner of the preceding regular season title is rewarded with hosting duties for the following season’s Summit League Tournament.

So why is the Summit League Volleyball Tournament being held at the Sanford Coyote Sports Center in Vermillion, S.D. this season when DU won the Summit League last season?

Inexplicable, really.

The conference teams played a full conference slate (excepting weather cancellations and the elimination of non-conference matches) during the 2020 season. Surely the loss of a ‘non-conference schedule’ due to COVID-19 complications would not be used as the reason to not follow the tradition of rewarding the regular season conference winner the Summit League Tournament hosting duties the following year? For example, South Dakota hosted last seasons Summit League tournament because they won the prior regular season title.

Men’s and women’s Summit League soccer teams abided by the commonly held league tournament hosting protocol this season, based on last season’s regular-season finish.  Denver men traveled to Western Illinois and DU women, winners of the 2020 regular season, played at home. Both only played conference games, too – just like volleyball.

Maybe it was about athlete safety? Currently, 60.3% of Sioux Falls residents (Minnehaha Country) are vaccinated and the risk level is HIGH. The City and Country of Denver are running a 75% vaccination rate for age 12 and older and frankly battling infections as well. Setting health policy and politics aside, Colorado and the City of Denver have always been more aggressive about COVID-19 mandates and transmission than Sioux Falls and South Dakota.

The move did not save substantially on travel to Sioux Falls either. Denver and ORU have to fly commercial airlines. Kansas City is 6 hour long bus ride or hour commercial flight. Omaha is a 3 hour bus ride away. Has anyone tried to purchase airline tickets on relatively short notice to a small airport like Sioux Falls versus traveling to larger metros like Denver or Kansas City or a mid sized cities like Omaha and Tulsa versus Sioux Falls, especially during a holiday weekend? The only cost beneficiaries in this are the University of South Dakota, South Dakota State University and the town of Sioux Falls, home of the Summit League headquarters.

All of this cannot be lost on Denver volleyball as they spend their Thanksgiving holed up in Sioux Falls or neighboring Vermillion, South Dakota.

Thanksgiving evening DU plays South Dakota State. If DU wins, they play the South Dakota Coyotes in what is essentially another home match at the Sanford Coyote Sports Center. Then, if DU can overcome those hurdles, likely, Omaha in the Summit League volleyball finals 19 hours later. No amount of gravy will make this home cooking taste good. But three victories would be a just dessert.

(Editors note: The expression meaning that which is deserved was originally just deserts. The phrase is the last refuge of an obsolete meaning of desert—namely, something thatis deserved or merited. But because most modern English speakers are unfamiliar with that old sense of desert, the phrase is often understandably written just desserts. A good Thanksgiving table quiz.)

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