Daily Egyptian

SIU volleyball working to reject opponents’ chances

Daily Egyptian file photo.

Daily Egyptian file photo.

By Jesse Robertson

Physicality is a huge part of volleyball, and the Salukis don’t want to lack in it.

Last season, the Salukis were ninth in the nation out of 329 teams in blocks with a total of 342.5, but a large part of that title isn’t back this season.

Graduated senior middle hitter Taylor Pippen averaged 1.10 blocks per set, which was good for third-best in the Missouri Valley Conference.

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Although she isn’t on the team anymore, Pippen’s blocking advice has stuck with senior middle hitter McKenzie Dorris. Pippin taught her the skills necessary to improve her blocking.

Last season, Dorris was fourth on the team with 66 total blocks, playing in 18 of the team’s 33 total matches. Through three games this season, she is tied for second on the team with 14 total blocks.

Nellie Fredriksson, left, and McKenzie Dorris celebrate after a point scored during Tuesday's game against SEMO. The Salukis defeated the Redhawks in three sets and improved to 7-3 this season. (DailyEgyptian.com file photo)

Nellie Fredriksson, left, and McKenzie Dorris celebrate after a point scored during a 2015 game against SEMO. The Salukis defeated the Redhawks in three sets . (DailyEgyptian.com file photo)

Although blocking may seem like a simple concept, the Metropolis native said there is more that goes into it than meets the eye.

“There’s a lot of instinct and timing that goes with it, but the main thing is trusting your other blockers,” Dorris said. “I have to trust [the players to] my right side and my left side, if the ball’s off we need to be in sync and have our timing down.”

After three games, Dorris is second to junior middle hitter Alex Rosignol for the team lead in blocks with 14.

Rosignol leads the team with 16 total blocks after being 3rd in the nation in blocks per set last season with 1.51.

Junior middle hitter Alex Rosignol digs a shot during volleyball practice Monday, Aug. 29, 2016, in Davies Gym. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

Junior middle hitter Alex Rosignol digs a shot during volleyball practice Monday, Aug. 29, 2016, in Davies Gym. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

Though the No. 3 blocker in the conference is no longer on the team, assistant coach Todd Nelson said blocking will still be one of the team’s strengths because of the system they play in.

Dorris said getting blocks is a big part of winning the psychological battle during the sets.

“If you block a girl with momentum and height then it really brings down her confidence,” she said. “Just the fact that you’re shutting her down can really affect them.”

So far, the Salukis are averaging 3.2 blocks per set and have 31.5 total blocks, which is 11.5 more than all of their opponents combined this year.

MORE: SIU volleyball ready for next challenge after championship win

It is unclear if the trend will continue throughout the year, but Nelson said the Salukis strive to be the most physical team on the court.

“We put time into it,” Nelson said. “We like being identified as a physical team in front of the net.”

The coaches don’t necessarily go out looking for blockers during recruitment, however.

“We want great volleyball athletes and teammates,” Nelson said. “A blocking instinct is always nice, but we believe that our system develops that instinct more often and quickly than other teams.”

SIU’s next game is at 7 p.m. Friday against Central Florida during the first night of the Saluki Invitational.

Staff writer Jesse Robertson can be reached at [email protected] or at 618-536-3333.

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