MVC volleyball tournament starts Thursday

By Aaron Graff

At the start of the season, SIU volleyball made a Missouri Valley Conference tournament victory its goal; it will have the chance to accomplish that this week.

The MVC volleyball tournament takes place Thursday through Saturday in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Six of the 10 conference teams make the tournament. SIU qualified for the third consecutive year, this time as the fifth seed.

Illinois State (24-5, 18-0) won the regular season title for the first time since 1997. The Redbirds earned a first-round bye with the accomplishment.

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“It showed that we have been consistent over the last couple months,” Redbird coach Melissa Myers said. “That’s really important for me. Last year we were 8-1 in the first half and then we were 3-6 in the second half.”

The Redbirds were the fifth seed last season, but upset Missouri State in the first round. They fell to the eventual conference champions, Wichita State, in the semifinals.

Northern Iowa (20-10, 14-4) also earned a first-round bye, with the second seed.

UNI earned the second seed last year as well, but was knocked out in its first match by SIU. The Panthers won their 1,000th game in program history Oct. 11 against the Salukis. UNI won three consecutive championships from 2009 to 2011.

The third-seeded Wichita State Shockers (19-8, 13-5) play the sixth-seeded Indiana State Sycamores (17-13, 9-9), and the fourth-seeded Missouri State Bears (19-11, 12-6) play the Salukis (16-14) in the quarterfinals.

The winner of the WSU and Indiana State match will play UNI. The winner of MSU and SIU will play Illinois State in the semifinals.

SIU was the sixth seed for the majority of the season, but a 3-1 finish in its last four matches, and Indiana State’s 0-4 finish, gave the Salukis a one-game lead.

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“This group’s and this team’s ideals and goals are to win the thing,” Saluki coach Justin Ingram said.

SIU is led by junior hitter Taylor Pippen, who leads the conference with a .413 hitting percentage.

“I’m really excited for the conference tournament,” Pippen said. “I think going in we’re pretty confident.”

MSU is led by freshman outside hitter Lily Johnson, who leads the conference with 459 kills and 38 service aces.

The Salukis split the season series 1-1 against the Bears. If SIU stayed in the sixth spot, it would have to play WSU. The Shockers defeated SIU both times this season.

“There are always teams you match up better against,” Ingram said. “That’s a tough one to gauge as far as us right now looking into it. You get who you get.”

The Shockers have returned five players who played in the conference championship game last season. WSU won nine of its last 11 matches.

WSU is led by redshirt freshman middle blocker Abbie Lehman, who is second in conference with a .382 hitting percentage.

Indiana State was picked to finish ninth in conference, but lost both matches this season to Wichita State. The Sycamores also lost both matches to Missouri State. The Sycamores split the season matches against UNI and SIU.

Indiana State is led by junior middle blocker Cassandra Willis, who is third in conference with a .359 hitting percentage.

For more information on the conference tournament visit MVC’s website.

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

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