Western Illinois may be 0-15, but no one would know it by watching them play on Tuesday.

By Gus Bode

The Westerwinds turned what was supposed to be a blowout into a decent match at Davies Gymnasium, but SIU still prevailed in three games 30-19, 30-28 and 30-25.

After crushing Western in game one, the Salukis received a scare when Western Illinois was able to keep the game tied as late as 27-27. A side-out and two Kristie Kemner kills later, SIU was off the hook.

“After we had a solid first game, we stepped back,” said junior setter Britten Follett. “We needed to manage our side of the court better.”

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The Salukis didn’t commit any hitting errors in game one and had four in game two.

Things got worse in game three.

Western crashed out of the gates with four straight points and found itself up 14-5 halfway through the contest, fueled by 10 SIU hitting errors.

Kemner took full blame for the slow start.

“It was my fault,” Kemner said. “I could not pass for, like, 12 points, and then I could pass again. I don’t know if it was a mental lapse or what, but it’s out of my system and it’s gone now.”

Or more accurately, it was gone when Kemner took the ball with her team down 5-14 and pumped out eight straight points off her serves. The Salukis appeared invincible after that and went on to win the match.

Despite the win, SIU said it didn’t play as well as it could have, and the team seems divided on the reason. Kemner and the other players said the team was trying out new plays, which accounted for the unexpectedly close scores.

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“We started doing things we weren’t used to doing, just to try some new plays and feel it out before we start playing another game,” Kemner said. “I think that’s what we were doing tonight.”

Head coach Sonya Locke said the team’s level of desire nearly did it in.

“I’m a little disappointed in our level of competitiveness,” Locke said. “Look at how we played on Friday and Saturday, then look at [tonight]. That was not the team that played on Friday and Saturday.”

Regardless of the effort, or lack thereof, the team was happy with a win, even if it was a non-conference game against a team that will not help its RPI.

Follett put it very bluntly.

“9-5 sounds a lot better than 8-6,” she said.

SIU was also happy to play its final mid-week match of the season. From now on, the Salukis only play on Fridays and Saturdays.

Kemner seemed more pleased than anyone to put Tuesday games in the history books.

“Now we’re going to have a lot more energy for the weekends,” Kemner said. “I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m dead when it comes to Tuesdays. I’m dead. I won’t have legs tomorrow.”

Reporter Michael Brenner can be reached at [email protected]

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