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Carrie Eighmey introduced as USD women’s basketball coach: ‘It’s a place that really feels like home’ – Mitchell Republic

VERMILLION – A day before she was to be introduced as the University of South Dakota women’s basketball coach, Carrie Eighmey was waiting at a stoplight and saw a familiar vehicle.

She saw the Nebraska license plate and a bumper sticker and had a realization.

“I thought: those are definitely my parents. They didn’t tell me they were coming. And they tried to surprise me. But I saw them clearly…They should have been warned that Vermillion is not a place that is very conducive to hiding,” Eighmey said.

The failed surprise attempt not only served as a funny story for Eighmey to share during her Tuesday morning press conference at USD’s athletic facility, but also gave the small-town Midwest resident a dose of comfort in her new home.

After a one-year stint as head coach at the University of Idaho, the Edgar, Nebraska, native has returned to her regional presence to take over the USD women’s basketball program.

“It’s never your plan to stay somewhere for a year,” Eighmey said. “And I didn’t expect this opportunity to be open just two years after the last time.

“But USD is a place I’ve wanted to be for a long time. It’s a dream job for me because I grew up in a small town a few hours south of here,” she added. “It’s a place that really feels like home.”

When former USD coach Kayla Karius left the program to join Green Bay on April 23 – just weeks after the season ended – athletics director Jon Schemmel and company moved quickly to find the next replacement.

Schemmel was looking for a proven winner who could “consistently outperform resources” and valued the school. Eighmey was announced as coach on April 30.

“There are a lot of great things that come with being a head coach in a small town like this,” Schemmel said. “And (we need) someone who is really going to embrace that with open arms and be active in the community. And I have no doubt that Carrie and (her husband) Devin will both represent that very well.

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Carrie Eighmey, the new USD women’s basketball coach, will be welcomed to a board at the Sanford Coyote Sports Center on Tuesday, May 7, 2024, in Vermillion.

Jacob Nielson / Mitchell Republic

Eighmey is familiar with Rushmore State, having made several trips to the Corn Palace both as a player and coach to take on Dakota Wesleyan, and has recruited and coached several South Dakota players.

Most of her head coaching career has been in the Midwest, beginning when she was hired at her alma mater, Hastings (Neb.), in 2012. After leading the Broncos to the NAIA national semifinals in 2015, she coached the University of Nebraska at Kearney, an NCAA Division II institution, from 2015 to 2023. In her final three years, the Lopers went to three consecutive D -II NCAA Tournaments.

After finding herself in a rebuilding situation in Idaho at age 15-16, Eighmey said she couldn’t pass up a “top 50 to 60 job” in the country, according to Schemmel.

The Coyotes are not far from an appearance in the 2022 NCAA Tournament regional semifinal under Dawn Plitzweit (now at Minnesota after a stop at West Virginia). After falling to 14-16 in 2022-23, the Coyotes rebounded last season with a 23-13 record, a fourth-place finish in the Summit League and two wins in the women’s NIT.

But last season’s success wouldn’t matter as much if the talent wasn’t retained, and Eighmey has made a valiant effort to keep the team intact.

Last Friday, eight players announced they were returning to the program, including Grace Larkins, the team leader in points, rebounds, assists and steals, and other rotation players such as Carley Duffney, Alexi Hempe, Olivia Kieffer and Addison Klosterbuer.

In addition, Eighmey has received commitments from incoming freshmen Gabby Wilke, Hannah Coons and Viki Matulevicius and transfer Madison Hillman.

“My first priority was to make sure I communicated with the current players on the team and re-recruited them into this program,” Eighmey said. “And that process had to happen very quickly. The finals took place that same week. So I had very little time to get in the same room with them, share the vision and help them understand that they were important pieces of the puzzle.”

Eighmey’s arrival comes at a time of increased national involvement in women’s basketball. With this passion for the sport already entrenched in South Dakota, USD’s new coach sees an opportunity to build the little Coyotes into a big winner.

“I think women’s basketball finally deserves the respect it has deserved for a long time. People love the game,” Eighmey said. “What’s cool is that ‘Yotes fans have loved women’s basketball for much longer than just the last two years. So these fans are loyal. They’ve been here, they’ve been supporting us for a long time, and I think there’s an opportunity to continue to build that momentum.”

Jacob Nielson

Jacob Nielson is a sports reporter for the Mitchell Republic. He joined the Mitchell Republic in July 2023 after graduating from Utah State University in 2023 with a degree in journalism and a minor in history. He covers a variety of prep and collegiate sports throughout South Dakota.