Daily Egyptian

Salukis to make first NCAA Tournament appearance

By Evan Jones, @EvanJones_DE

SIU’s volleyball team sat silently, staring at the TV in the John Paul Cook Club room in Lingle Hall on Sunday night, anxious to hear the results of the NCAA tournament selection show.

The Salukis were selected to play University of Illinois at 4 p.m. Friday in Louisville, Ky. This is SIU’s first NCAA tournament appearance in program history.

The 64-team NCAA tournament has 32 conference champion automatic qualifiers, leaving 32 spots for at-large bids.

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After the Salukis lost to Missouri State on Friday in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, the team’s future was unsure.

“[Freshman defensive specialist] Tara [Routliffe] was marking down the teams that had been called, there were only ten teams left so we were getting nervous,” junior setter Hannah Kaminsky said. “We had a really good idea that we would get picked.”

People watched two MVC teams — Wichita State and Missouri State — get called in the first 15 minutes of the show.

Wichita State earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament as MVC tournament champions. Missouri State secured an at-large bid.

Less than 15 minutes later Southern Illinois University heard its name get called.

No. 24 Illinois (19-12) is ranked 15 spots ahead of SIU. 

Northern Iowa was selected with an at-large bid shortly after SIU was, making four MVC teams in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2010. They are both in the Des Moines Regional.

“All I was thinking [after the Missouri State loss] was I didn’t want the season to be over,” senior middle hitter Taylor Pippen said. “We played [Illinois] once last year and we didn’t give them a good fight like we can now.”  

Last season SIU lost to No. 11 ranked Illinois in three sets. 

U of I was one of nine Big Ten Conference teams to make the tournament. 

Coach Justin Ingram won MVC Coach of the Year this season. The last and only other time SIU’s coach won was in 2002 when Sonya Locke won the award. The Dawgs have made the MVC postseason tournament every season since Ingram took over the program four years ago.

This is his first NCAA tournament berth as a head coach. 

“I think it’s a great match-up for us,” Ingram said. “It’s a year older for this group — most of the girls out there last year will be out there will be out there on the floor for us this year.”

SIU finished the regular season with a 23-8 overall record. Four of its wins are against teams that finished higher in the RPI rankings than SIU, with one win against a team that finished in the Top 25. 

Evan Jones can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @EvanJones_DE

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