SIU Volleyball to open season in Lone Star State this weekend

By Gus Bode

Salukis face Air Force, Miss. St. tonight at Southwest Texas State Bobcat Classic

The SIU volleyball team will begin its season tonight in a strange land and against four strange teams.

The Salukis will square off against four teams today and Saturday at the Southwest Texas State Bobcat Classic in San Marcos, Texas, though they are unsure of what they will find when they get there.

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SIU knows very little about Texas and is a stranger to the teams it will be playing. But the uncertainty doesn’t seem to bother it.

“I don’t think it matters what we know and what we don’t know about these teams,” senior Tara Cains said. “They play volleyball, and that’s all we need to know.”

Although the Salukis haven’t scouted Air Force, Mississippi State, host Southwest Texas State or North Texas, they still plan on leaving the Lone Star State with four wins in their pocket.

Senior Kristie Kemner has little doubt her team will make losers of its opponents.

“We can beat all four of these teams,” Kemner said. “We should be coming home 4-0.”

SIU finished last season 11-19 – far superior to Air Force’s 2-21 finish, so a trouncing should be expected. But the other three teams posted records nearly identical to the Salukis during their 2001 campaigns, which could make for a competitive tournament.

Locke still believes SIU will take all four games, but she expressed her confidence a bit more carefully than Kemner.

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“We just want to get as many wins as possible,” Locke said. “We want to play good volleyball, and sometimes you play good volleyball and don’t win. We want to play up to our potential.”

Locke is stressing that although non-conference opponents are a great chance to test your team and find out who can do what, she is already looking to the postseason.

Who the Salukis beat in Texas this weekend, though it’s early, could affect their postseason chances. They are not taking these games lightly.

Locke said Mississippi State is a great example of this weekend’s importance. If SIU beats the Bulldogs, and the Bulldogs win the SEC, it would increase the Salukis’ RPI and pull a lot of weight with the selection people come tournament time.

Therefore, the Bobcat Classic is much more than a tune-up.

“If we just wanted to practice, we’d get someone to come in and scrimmage us,” Locke said. “This is a senior-ridden team. We’re there to win.”

Friday’s match against Air Force will be the first collegiate match for one of the few Salukis who is not a senior – Marissa Washington.

Washington is in the running for the second middle blocker position, and as of Thursday, that position’s starter hadn’t been named. But whether she starts or not, Washington won’t have any problems with stage fright.

“I’m ready to play,” Washington said. “I’ve gotten a lot better since I’ve gotten here, so I just want to show everyone on Mississippi State and Air Force what Sonya and the rest of the seniors on this team have shown me.”

Washington and the rest of the Salukis will be spending three nights in Texas, limiting their off-court activities to dinner with alumni.

Kemner said she, and probably the rest of the team, will not be seeking fun on the streets of San Marcos. Volleyball will be the only thing on her mind.

“I’m not going to press our luck,” Kemner said. “I’m just going to eat, sleep and play volleyball.”

Reporter Michael Brenner can be reached at [email protected]

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