Final games prep volleyball for postseason

Saluki Volleyball split its matches this weekend, as it lost to Illinois State in a close contest Friday but defeated Indiana State Saturday.

The Saluki women played point for point against the Redbirds but fell by the score of 19-25, 25-23, 18-25, 25-19 and 13-15 in Normal.

Bailey Yeager broke SIU’s all-time single season digs record by accounting for 32 digs in a stellar performance. Yeager has a total of 593 digs for the season and has 1,387 career digs — good for third most in the team’s history.

The Illinois State win ties the team with Southern Illinois’ 10 conference victories this season. The Redbirds pulled ahead of the Salukis early in the first set, and despite tying the game at 11-11, Southern wasn’t able to overtake ISU for the set.

The Salukis won the second (25-23) and fourth (25-19) sets because of timely blocking and never allowed the Redbirds to claim the lead in the second. After Southern pushed the lead to 10-7 in the fourth set, Illinois State called a timeout to slow the Salukis momentum. The strategy proved ineffective as SIU continued to hold the lead after the break in play.

ISU managed an early lead in the fifth set going up 9-4. Southern then called a timeout of its own and clawed within three points of the Redbirds at 13-10. Illinois State got a kill through for set point and led 14-10. After scoring two consecutive points and a net violation by ISU, the Salukis were only down 14-13. However, Illinois State won the set 15-13 and the match.

Southern tabbed a team hitting percentage of .167 Friday, but averages .240 attack percentage for the rest of the season.

The Salukis did more than cure their hitting woes in the domination of Indiana State Saturday.

Southern hit .326 against the Sycamores en route to a 25-22, 25-21, 25-9 sweep in the final Missouri Valley Conference match of the year.

“We are still getting the opportunity to get better and are feeling better about going into the tournament,” SIU head coach Justin Ingram said. “We understand who we are as a team now and feel comfortable playing any team.”

SIU struggled hitting early on and posted its lowest hitting percentage of the night in the first set.

“In the first set we were having some difficulties defending some of their hitters,” Ingram said. “Their offense was clicking and our defense wasn’t responding.”

In the second set of the night, the score was tied 13 times with six lead changes. Each team went on numerous multiple-point sprees throughout the set, trading the lead. The Salukis rallied to collect the final points, holding off the Sycamores to win set two 25-21.

Senior Laura Thole gave the Salukis a boost in the third set with her serves; giving SIU a 7-0 edge. The team dominated the rest of the set, winning 25-9.

“Laura started out the match with great serves limiting their options and made them rely on other hitters and that is where the separation began,” Ingram said.

The Salukis must now prepare for the MVC Tournament. Seedings will be decided at the end of tonight’s Missouri Valley matches. The tournament is set to begin Thursday in Springfield, Mo.

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