The Salukis’ best season in 10 years ended early as the team lost its first game of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.
SIU finished with a 21-9 overall record and 11-7 in conference after losing in three sets to Illinois State (18-12, 11-7) Thursday with scores of 21-25, 21-25 and 20-25.
“It took a lot of hard work and four great seniors to make this season happen,” coach Justin Ingram said. “It didn’t end how we wanted it to end, but at the same time we are pleased with the progress the program has made.”
Before Thursday’s game at the pre-tournament banquet, senior middle blocker Alysia Mayes and senior outside hitter Laura Thole were selected for the All-MVC First Team, and freshman middle blocker Taylor Pippen was selected for the MVC All-Freshman Team. Mayes, senior libero Bailey Yeager and senior setter Rachael Brown were also given MVC First Team Scholar-Athlete awards.
The Salukis entered the tournament Thursday night after losing to the Redbirds in five sets during the team’s last regular season game Nov. 16. SIU beat Illinois State in its first season matchup Sept. 15 in three sets.
ISU started the first set with three consecutive kills and SIU answered with three more consecutive kills. The teams continued to trade points until ISU pulled away in the middle of the set with a six-point run to put them up 17-14.
SIU never took the lead again, as the set ended with an attack error by junior outside hitter Jessica Whitehead.
The Salukis’ hitting percentage went down to .119 in the second set from .167 in the first set.
Freshman defensive specialist Mary Bogdanski served the second set’s first three points with two ISU attack errors and a kill from Mayes.
The teams were tied at 10 when ISU added multiple points and eventually won the set.
SIU was down 10-14 in the third set when Ingram called a timeout.
The team went on a late three point run with a kill from Mayes and two blocks. It wasn’t enough, though, as the set ended with an ISU kill.
Mayes and Whitehead each led the team with eight kills followed by Thole and Pippen with seven each. The match ended with 33 Saluki kills and 47 from ISU.
“Our swings just weren’t where we needed them to be to make Illinois State scramble,” Ingram said. “We didn’t have an answer offensively.”
Pippen was the lone Saluki named to the 2012 MVC All-Tournament Team. Creighton went on to win the tournament after beating ISU 3-1 and shutting out Wichita State 3-0.