Volleyball returns to Valley play versus Evansville

By Gus Bode

Head Coach Brenda Winkeler discusses a play with junior setter Rachael Brown during their game against Drake Friday in Davies Gymnasium. The Salukis defeated Drake with a final score of 3-1 but lost to Creighton 3-1 on Saturday. The Salukis will face Evansville 7 p.m. today at home. Ð Tony Jou | Daily Egyptian

Saluki volleyball returns to Missouri Valley Conference play this weekend as they host the Evansville Purple Aces (11-8, 1-3 MVC) at Davies Gymnasium.

SIU (7-6, 1-2 MVC) is coming from a Tuesday match against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville that ended in a victory through five sets, despite losing the third and fourth sets.

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Coach Brenda Winkeler said being anxious caused the team to lose two of the sets.

“We didn’t disrupt their offense or put a ball out there that gave them trouble (in the third and fourth sets),” Winkeler said.

Junior middle blocker Alysia Mayes is playing Friday despite ankle tendinitis that has been bothering her this week. Even with the injury, she was able to post a career-high of 20 kills Tuesday.

“She was big offensively for us (Tuesday night),” Winkeler said. “We wanted a better blocking game, but we’re happy with how she played offensively.”

Sophomore outside hitter Jessica Whitehead also nursed an injury with her sore knee, but she remained third in the MVC with an average of 3.34 kills per set. She had eight kills to one attack error in the final two sets of Tuesday’s match.

“I struggled in the first two games, hitting balls out and in the net and whatever,” Whitehead said. “(Winkeler) just told me to stay patient, keep working hard and don’t let the team down.”

Junior outside hitter Laura Thole had a double-double Tuesday with 13 kills and 19 digs despite only hitting .059. She is fourth in the MVC with an average of 3.28 kills per set.

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This match has double the meaning for Thole with the “Dig for the Cure” promotion Friday, which will raise money for breast cancer research. Thole’s mother Diane was diagnosed with breast cancer during Thole’s senior year of high school and will be attending Friday’s game as a survivor of the disease.

“That was a really big deal, and its really emotional for me because my mom is my best friend,” Thole said.

Last season SIU split their season series with Evansville, marking the sixth straight year they have done so. The home team has won every game in that time span.

“We know that they’re at the same level as we are; they lost to the same Drake team we won against (Sept.23),” Thole said. “(If) we play as well as we did against Drake it will be a win for us.”

Evansville has senior outside hitter Brooke Maher, who had a double-double in the Saluki victory over Evansville October 22, 2010 with 20 kills and 11 digs. She is currently sixth in the MVC with an average of 3.12 kills per set.

“She’s literally started every match since she’s been there; she’s definitely a key person who will get a lot of balls,” Winkeler said. “We’re going to serve her a lot of balls and really make her work her tail off.”

 

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