SIU volleyball (16-7, 7-3) defeated Drake (13-14, 6-5) and Northern Iowa (13-11, 7-4) on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
In the first match of the weekend, SIU used fast pace offense to throw off Drake resulting in a three-set sweep (25-15, 25-18, 25-20).
“We play a more up tempo attack that is not normal for this conference, so it allows us to get more kills and not as many blocks, which allows us to gain momentum and keep attacking,” said sophomore outside hitter Andrea Estrada.
SIU won 81 percent of side out points in the first set, pacing the team for the rest of the match.
Estrada led the way with 14 kills against Drake. Senior middle hitter Taylor Pippen finished with nine.
Pippen said mechanic adjustments is the key to her success.
“I was out for a few games which allowed me to discover new ways to swing and different ways to get kills in practice,” she said. “It definitely translated into positives for our team tonight.”
Coach Justin Ingram was happy with the way his team played throughout the match.
“We did a very nice job of distributing the ball,” Ingram said. “I felt like that was a positive for our team, as everyone got a good amount of swings and allowed us to be the aggressor.”
On Saturday, the Salukis welcomed Northern Iowa.
The Salukis beat the Panthers in four sets (25-16, 23-25, 25-23, 25-17) in a match that had 11 lead changes and 23 ties.
SIU split the season series with Northern Iowa after previously losing 3-1 to the Panthers on Sept. 25 at the McLeod Center in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
Estrada led the match with 16 kills and led her team in attack percentage at .483.
The Saluki offense won the first set 25-16, with 76 percent of side out points and being the aggressor.
The Panthers used short tips over the net that dropped in the middle of the court, just out of a player’s reach, en route to a 25-23 set win.
“We had discussions at [the break] about preparing ourselves for those kind of defensive movements and we learned as the match progressed how to guard better against them,” Ingram said.
Coming out of the break after the first two sets, the Salukis won the next two sets, 25-23 and 25-17, to finish off UNI.
Junior setter Meg Viggars led the team in assists with 24 and felt she distributed the ball well to her teammates.
“I was just looking to find whoever was open and when the defense would shift, I’d just put it over to Andrea [Estrada] and she was having a really good night,” she said.
Overall, coach Ingram was pleased with how well his team played against UNI.
“When you’re able to get an attack percentage of .368 against a scrappy Northern Iowa team, you’re doing something right and I liked the way we hustled tonight, it definitely led to us getting some tough points when we needed them,” Ingram said.
The Salukis play Loyola at 7 p.m. on Friday in Chicago.
Ted Ward can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @TedWard_DE