SIU starts slowly in California

By Gus Bode

Salukis go 1-2 at San Diego State Invitational

SIU volleyball’s first weekend of the regular season could be classified as a sweeps weekend.

Each of the three matches the team played in finished with someone winning 3 games to none.

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For the first two matches, that someone was not the Salukis.

The University of California-Riverside and San Diego State put a damper on volleyball’s season premiere Friday at the San Diego State Invitational. In these matches, SIU fell victim to sub-par ball control and a defense that was exposed by their California counterparts.

“We played UC-Riverside and San Diego State, teams that were competitive and were good teams,” said head coach Brenda Winkeler. “I didn’t feel that they were bad losses.”

Saturday’s episode proved more pleasing as SIU learned from their mistakes and ended on the positive side of a 3-0 score, sweeping Liberty University.

“For the most part, I was pleased with the team’s performance,” Winkeler said. “We improved, and we won a game with confidence after losing two. Any time you can do that, it shows your team’s resilience.”

The match versus Liberty salvaged the weekend and gave Winkeler her first win at SIU. The Saluki defense found a way to block the opposing team’s shots, which was not the case in the previous two matches. On offense, a more efficient effort was shown and the Salukis controlled the ball better than it did in the previous two matches.

Outside hitter Katy DeWulf led the team offensively all weekend. On the way to picking up all-tournament honors, the sophomore led the team with 31 kills, 12 of which came in the Liberty win. DeWulf averaged 3.44 kills per game and her hitting percentage was .344 for the tournament. DeWulf’s performance came in her first matches as a hitter – last year she was a middle blocker.

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“[DeWulf] has been looking very good in practice,” Winkeler said. “She moved into the new position without worrying a lot about it. She just went out and played and did what we needed to do.”

DeWulf wasn’t the only Saluki to step up.

Junior middle blocker Johannah Yutzy had a team-high .550 hitting percentage for the tournament. Senior Marissa Washington led the team in blocks for both the San Diego State and Liberty matches. Junior setter Holly Marita led the team in assists for two of the three matches; versus UC-Riverside she had 35 of the team’s 36 total assists.

Freshman Kristy Elswick provided the defensive spark that was expected of her, as she led the team in digs in each of the three matches.

Winkeler feels that the team’s biggest weakness is ball control and that, along with blocking, will be focused on in the team’s upcoming practices.

The most revealing stats in the losses came in the UC-Riverside match. SIU was shutout in blocks while UC-Riverside managed eight. The Salukis also gave up 57 kills to the Highlanders while making 40.

“We’ve got to come up with people who can pass,” Winkeler said. “They’ve been dropping their hands, that’s one technical thing we’ve been working on, keeping their hands up for blocking. We’ll go right back to work on that.”

Reporter Kyle Means can be reached at [email protected]

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