Saluki specializes to serve

By Aaron Graff

A serving specialist in volleyball has a similar role to that of a field goal kicker in football; they both come into the game without warming up and are expected to perform a critical task.

Sophomore libero/defensive specialist Leah Edgerton played all 124 sets as a freshman, but a new team system has limited her playing time this season.

In volleyball, teams are allowed 15 substitutions per set. Ingram said redshirt freshman outside hitter Andrea Estrada can pass the ball better than all defensive players, except senior Alex Rivera. He said because of that, he has not used many subs to bring in defensive players.

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Last season, SIU had eight players play more than 100 sets, three of which were defensive specialists. Only two defensive specialists have played in more than 80 of this year’s 107 sets.

However, it has not kept Edgerton off the court completely. She has played in 47 of the team’s 107 sets this season, mostly as a substitute to serve for junior hitter Taylor Pippen.

“That’s one of the toughest things to do is to solely come in there and perform your serve after 10 reps or 20 reps in practice,” coach Justin Ingram said. “The expectation is to drive the opponent off the net.”

Edgerton said she had to adjust to her role, but is happy with it.

Edgerton has four service aces and three service errors on the year, compared to Pippen’s nine service aces and 13 service errors.

Ingram said Pippen has served more this year, usually earlier in sets, but in certain situations it is better to go with Edgerton. He said when he puts Edgerton in, he hopes she can record some digs.

“It’s the serving-defense combo,” Ingram said. “That’s the attribute Leah brings that is a little bit different than Taylor.”

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Pippen said she is not as strong in the back row, and passing is one of the weaker parts of her game.

“[Edgerton’s] a lot better in the back row than I am right now,” Pippen said. “I think we just feel more comfortable when she serves and she’s passing those balls up behind our hitters.”

Edgerton said serving is not always her main focus in practice, but she knows her role and makes sure she performs well because it leads to better all-around play.

“If you can serve well, it’s the first contact,” Edgerton said. “If the other team is out of system, it makes the defense a lot easier, which transitions into a better offense.”

Edgerton said her serve comes in at a lower angle than Pippen’s and sometimes throws off the other team.

“Having a different serve is good for the [opponent] to not get used to one serve all the time,” she said.

Edgerton said she has no idea if she will earn more playing time next season, but wants whatever is best for the team.

Ingram said it takes a certain mindset to produce in Edgerton’s role and he trusts her at the line because she has been successful this season.

“It’s a pretty tough role to be in, but she’s grabbed on to it and done a great job for us,” Ingram said.

Aaron Graff can be contacted at [email protected], on Twitter @Aarongraff_DE or 536-3311 ext. 269

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