SIU gameplans to victory

By Gus Bode

Evansville’s “tip and roll” offensive attack failed to fool a well-prepared SIU volleyball team this weekend.

With a gameplan focused on eliminating Evansville’s ability to lightly tip the ball over blockers, the Salukis swept the University of Evansville Friday night in front of 432 fans at Davies Gymnasium in Missouri Valley Conference action.

Entering the match, the Salukis (10-4 overall, 2-1 MVC) had three main objectives – stop Purple Aces senior right side hitter Megan Spurlock, prevent Evansville from setting up its offensive attack by serving aggressively and keep the “tip and roll” in check, head coach Brenda Winkeler said.

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“We did all three things to a T,” Winkeler said. “Not often do you give a team three strategies and they carry out all three.”

Moving junior libero Kristy Elswick – who had 20 digs and is now just 42 away from becoming SIU’s all-time leader – farther back on defense was SIU’s key weapon against Evansville’s tipping, Winkeler said.

“They felt really good about that,” Winkeler said of her squad’s reaction to the defensive switch. “It felt like something fresh and new and Elswick chased down a lot of balls back there.”

With five Saluki players recording eight or more digs for the second consecutive match, Spurlock was held to a .226 hitting percentage, while SIU’s six service aces forced the Purple Aces (8-6, 1-2) to alter their entire offensive strategy, Winkeler said.

“It is such an amazing feeling,” said Chandra Roberson, a sophomore middle blocker who hit .500 with 12 kills. “You know that once you take care of the things we have to take care of, we can just swing away.”

In past matches SIU has struggled to prevent opponents from stringing together long runs, but with the exception of a five-point run in the second game, the team kept Evansville effectively out of the contest.

Evansville even failed to garner a lead until halfway through the third game, after which the Salukis went on a 10-to-2 run to close the door on the Purple Aces.

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The Salukis’ digging was the key facet that led to success in other areas, redshirt freshman Jennifer Berwanger said.

“You can’t set, you can’t hit, unless you have diggers,” Berwanger said.

Berwanger broke out on Friday with a career-high 14 kills, along with a .520 hitting percentage and 12 digs. Jen’s sister, Kristie, a junior right side hitter, continued her solid play with 13 kills and eight digs.

Sophomore outside hitter Kelsie Laughlin entered the match having not recorded more than four kills in her past three matches, with a negative .020 hitting percentage.

Against Evansville, Laughlin, who had 10 kills and hit .360, was one of four Salukis to record double-digit kills. Laughlin was making too many mental mistakes during her slump, Winkeler said.

“She was worried about making errors and playing complacent,” Winkeler said. “Just like a pro athlete, when you are in a slump, you are trying to think of the 101 ways to get out of it, and usually it is just to play. We have been saying to her, ‘Just hit the ball.'”

The Salukis will travel away from the confines of Davies, where they are 6-1 this season, for matches against MVC rivals Wichita State University (10-4, 3-1) on Friday and Missouri State University (13-2, 4-0) on Saturday. Both road games begin at 7 p.m.

Daily Egyptian writer Justin Stofferahn can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 282 or [email protected]

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