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SIU soccer set to play first tournament in franchise history
October 28, 2022
Southern Illinois women’s soccer, with a 8-4-4 record so far, is set to play in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament for the first time in franchise history this Sunday, October 30th. The tournament appearance is another milestone in the significant turnaround the club has made since last season.
Seniors who have been with the program from the start, like Maddy Alaluf and Emma Spotak, haven’t had the chance to make it to the tournament in their first few years at Southern.
“It’s just crazy to think about,” Alaluf said.
Spotak thinks it’s really cool for the women who have been with the program from the beginning.
“It’s really exciting, it’s surreal,” she said.
Leading up to the 2022 season, the Salukis had been focused on their team chemistry with bonding exercises, team dinners and trivia nights that the coaching staff set up. These have helped to create a bond the team hasn’t seen in previous seasons. This bond has continued throughout the season, and the team hopes to bring it into the postseason.
“The mentality, competitiveness, and drive that we have this year, we’ve never had as a team. The coaching staff that we have this year not only cares about us winning games, they care about us mentally and that helps a lot,” Alaluf said.
As a team, the Salukis are always training on and off the field, watching film, doing scouting reports and altering their training sessions to put them in a better position to beat their opponents.
“Having a lot more structure and organization within practices and other things have helped a lot, not just preparing for the tournament, but throughout the whole season,” Spotak said.
In preparation for the first postseason game in franchise history, Saluki women’s soccer is not only taking actions to prepare as a team but individually in their off time.
“I’ve been taking care of myself physically and mentally. Working on balancing school and soccer and keeping my eyes on the prize,” Spotak said.
Alaluf and senior Sam Dodd said they are working on similar things.
“Individually, I am always doing what I can do to improve my game whether it be watching my diet and making sure I’m fueling my body, making sure I get enough sleep, recovery, or going in for extra sessions and rewatching film,” Dodd said.
Dodd, who transferred to Southern Illinois her sophomore year in the midst of a large losing streak for the Salukis, said previously that, while her first season at Southern wasn’t what she expected, she always knew there was a reason that she transferred.
“Losing a lot last year sucked, but it makes the winning feel ten times better. Playing in the first tournament of franchise history is such an honor and it’s honestly hard to comprehend,” Dodd said.
After breaking the 2+ season long winless streak and creating a better name for the program, Saluki soccer and the coaching staff have been putting in the hard work and dedication from the start to get them where they are and to put them in a good position for postseason play.
“I told myself at the beginning of the year, I just want to end on a good note,” Alaluf said.
For seniors that have been with Saluki soccer since their freshman year, this tournament is a bittersweet moment.
“Just seeing where we’ve come from since my freshman year and how much has changed, even if it ended now I’d be so happy with how we all did and knowing that we’re the same people playing from our freshman year and now we know we can win,” Alaluf said.
However, the Salukis opponent for their first game has yet to be determined. They’ll play the winner of #5 Drake vs #8 Murray State. That game will happen on Thursday, giving SIU almost three days of notice before kickoff on Sunday.
Dodd said, “we all want to win a ring!”
The Salukis may be playing in the tournament without the guidance of head coach Craig Roberts. He was put on administrative leave last week for unspecified reasons. The Daily Egyptian reached out for comment from players and staff, but they declined to discuss the situation further.
Regardless of how the postseason ends up for the Dawgs, huge strides have been made in the program, with the Salukis now a serious name to be reckoned with in Valley Soccer play.
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Sports reporter Joei Younker can be reached at [email protected].
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