The Missouri Valley Conference coaches don’t think it can get any worse – or better – for the SIU volleyball team.

By Gus Bode

The Salukis concluded last season 7-23 and have been picked to mirror last season’s eighth place conference finish in the MVC Preseason Coaches Poll.

Head coach Sonya Locke said the poll did not surprise her and attributes the Salukis’ low ranking to inconsistency.

“We’re young and just haven’t earned anybody’s respect as of yet,” Locke said. “I never would have expected to have been placed to finish too much higher than that, although my expectations would be higher.”


Wichita State was chosen to sit atop the conference with Northern Iowa, which was selected to finish first for the sixth straight year. Southwest Missouri State, Illinois State and Creighton round out the top five.

The last time SIU was picked eighth was 2002 when it achieved its best mark in 18 years, finishing 23-10 en route to their first conference tournament final.

Locke said her team will use the poll as motivation to return to the conference tournament, which includes the top six teams.

“Preseason polls have been blown out of the water time and time again,” Locke said. “It doesn’t matter what the preseason poll says. We know what we’re capable of it’s just a matter of us executing those things.”

Although just two seniors highlight their roster, the Salukis return five starters and nine athletes who started matches last season.

Senior Carrie Shephard said the team is working hard to disprove the naysayers.

“Naturally, I’m going to be angry about it because I think we probably should have gotten a higher spot but our record last year didn’t allow that,” Shephard said. “We definitely have to win more games.”


The Salukis will be led by the sophomore duo of Haley Hann and Jene’ Pulliam. Hann became the second Saluki to be named to the MVC All-Freshmen Team after finishing last season with the second-most kills and block assists. Pulliam recorded four double-doubles last season and had the second best kills per game average.

“Now that they’ve seen everything and they’ve played in all of the places that we’re going to have to play in, there’s no question that they expect more and they’re practicing that way,” Locke said.