The second set seemed to change both matches for the Salukis during the team’s weekend play.
Despite the Bulldogs’ early three-point edge, SIU (18-6, 8-5 MVC) held on to take Friday’s first set. Despite the Salukis’ easy first-set win, Drake (3-19, 2-9) came back fighting in a second set that saw 18 ties and 10 lead changes.
The teams were tied at 23 when Drake’s Cassie Effken threw down a kill to put the Bulldogs at set point. After a Southern timeout, junior outside hitter Jessica Whitehead answered with a kill that tied the set at 24. Drake scored again, which put the team at set point once again. An attack error from Effken, a kill from senior outside hitter Laura Thole and a bad set by Drake’s Sarah Madden sealed the set 27-25 for SIU.
As opposed to an easy first set, the third set was much like the second: close.
The teams traded points until the middle of the set when SIU went on a five-point run and stopped three points ahead. Shortly after a Drake timeout, the team went on a six-point run that put the Bulldogs up 16-13. The teams were tied at 22 when Whitehead had back-to-back attack errors and a kill. The Bulldogs were still up 24-23 when they won the set with a kill from Katie Dulek.
The third set stayed close until SIU pulled away with a kill from Thole that put the Salukis up 18-16, and the team went on to win the set 25-19.
SIU held Drake to a .117 team hitting percentage including a .089 in the first set and .079 in the third set. The Salukis also recorded 11 team blocks compared to the Bulldogs three. Thole recorded a double double with 16 kills and 14 digs. Whitehead led the team with 20 kills, senior libero Bailey Yeager had 33 digs, and sophomore setter Amy Drabant tallied 45 assists.
The Salukis won the first set in Saturday’s matchup against Creighton (20-3, 11-1), which made it look like the team would repeat history of Creighton’s lone season conference loss to SIU Sept. 28. SIU jumped out to a five-point lead in the set with senior middle blocker Alysia Mayes serving.
Creighton answered with two runs of three and four points, and Saluki senior setter Rachael Brown stayed back to serve four points with three consecutive kills from Mayes off of sets from Drabant. The teams traded points until a kill from Thole helped SIU take the first set 27-25.
The Salukis were up three points in the second set when Creighton called a timeout. The Jays came back to tie the set at 12. The teams traded two points for two points until Creighton took the lead to 24-20. SIU came back with a kill from freshman middle blocker Taylor Pippen, but the Salukis lost when Creighton’s Michelle Sicner threw down the final point for a 25-21 Bluejay win.
The third set was just as close as the second, but SIU couldn’t keep up with Crighton’s .235 hitting percentage in the set as they lost 25-23. Creighton used the second and third sets’ momentum to take the fourth set 25-18 without ever giving SIU the lead or chance to tie the game. SIU had a -.026 hitting percentage in the weekend’s final set.
Mayes led the team with 17 kills followed by Thole with 15 and Whitehead with 14.
SIU will travel again Friday as they take on Evansville, Ind.