Salukis look forward after season-ending loss

By Aaron Graff

SIU volleyball qualified for the Missouri Valley Conference tournament for the third consecutive year, but the third time was not the charm.

The Missouri State Bears (20-12, 12-6) defeated the Salukis (16-15, 10-8) 3-0 Thursday in the quarterfinals of the MVC tournament.

MSU was led by the MVC Freshman of the Year, outside hitter Lily Johnson. She recorded 16 kills, 5 digs and 1 block. Senior outside hitter Olivia Brand recorded 11 kills.

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“They were both hitting with some pace, with some height over the net,” coach Justin Ingram said. “The success rate of us being able to touch it, slow it down, defend it and then transition, was rare.”

No Saluki had more than 6 kills. Freshmen outside hitters Abby Barrow and Andrea Estrada each recorded 6 kills. Barrow was the only Saluki named to the All-Tournament team.

Missouri State lost to the Illinois State Redbirds (26-5, 18-0) 3-2 Saturday in the semifinals. Illinois State went on to defeat the Northern Iowa Panthers (21-11, 14-4) to win the tournament and advance to the NCAA tournament.

The Salukis did not come home completely empty-handed. Junior hitter Taylor Pippen was named to the First Team All-Conference team for the second year in a row. Sophomore hitter/ setter Meg Viggars was named to the Second Team All-Conference team. Estrada was named to the All-Freshman team.

“It means a lot, but obviously I wanted the team to do better,” Viggars said. “I’m disappointed overall.”

Viggars had three triple-doubles this season.

Pippen led the MVC with a .410 hitting efficiency, which is the highest for a single season in Saluki history. Sonya Locke, who hit .369 in 1981, held the record.

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Estrada was 12th in conference, averaging 2.85 kills per set.

“I didn’t think I was going to make it because I had a good season, but I could have done better,” Estrada said. “It took me by surprise to be honest.”

Estrada said she has to be more efficient and made too many errors this year.

Viggars said the team will work harder next year and see improvement.

Ingram said freshman middle hitter Alex Rosignol was the most-improved player on the team this year. She led the conference with 1.21 blocks per set. Rosignol did not consistently play for the first half of the season, but replaced sophomore middle hitter McKenzie Dorris in the starting lineup Oct. 24 and played the rest of the matches.

The team went 7-3 in that stretch, including tournament play.

“She wasn’t even close when the season started as far as her abilities and percentages,” Ingram said. “I would even say volleyball IQ. As the season progressed, there was a sharp turn she took.”

Ingram said overall he is happy with the season because the team learned so much and showed so much progress. The team has 18 players, 15 of which are underclassmen.

SIU lost two seniors this year, including libero Alex Rivera, who played every set for the Salukis. She led the team with 478 digs.

“She was one of the better serve receivers in the league, if not right at the top,” Ingram said.

Estrada said Rivera played with a lot of energy, and someone needs to step up in place of her.

The team will take a break from volleyball because of finals and winter break, but Ingram said it will start strength training again in January to prepare for next year.

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

 

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