Daily Egyptian

SIU volleyball season primer with coach Thompson

Daily Egyptian file photo

Daily Egyptian file photo

By Nathan Dodd

SIU volleyball looks to build upon a strong 2016 season in which the Salukis finished 21-12 overall while claiming fourth place in the Missouri Valley with a 12-6 regular season conference record.

Despite a strong conference finish last season, the Salukis enter the 2017 season ranked fifth in the MVC preseason rankings — two spots lower than their preseason rank entering 2016.

“With where we are with a new staff, some players leaving and question marks at a couple positions I think that’s an accurate rank for the start,”  head coach Kari Thompson said. “But I think that’s too low for a finish.”

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The Salukis return three starters to the court this season, along with six seniors to a predominantly young squad.  

Coach Thompson is leaning on her seniors, including preseason All-Conference outside hitter Andrea Estrada, to foster leadership in the rest of the team.

“Along with our seniors, whoever our setter is will serve as our on court leader,”  Thompson said.

Estrada, a two time All-MVC selection, is a major component of the squad Thompson plans to build around, though the head coach believes that Estrada still has room to improve her game.

“Teams last year were able to key in on Andrea pretty exclusively,”  Thompson said.  “She sets high expectations for herself and I look for her to be more productive as our offense becomes more balanced.”

Coach Thompson is aware that she has a young squad to begin the season that needs to learn to come together as a team. She is very proud of what she has seen from her freshman athletes and believes that there is great talent to build around for future years.

Some of the competition of the MVC will not only be fresh for coach Thompson, but for the entire Saluki lineup as well.

The MVC saw a major shake-up in conference play for 2017 with the departure of highly-talented Wichita State for the American Athletic Conference, while the arrival of Valparaiso gives a new look to the Missouri Valley.

The vacancy of Wichita St., who earned a bid to the NCAA tournament in 2016, has other teams “salivating” to take charge in the MVC according to Thompson.  Along with SIU, conference opponents Missouri State, Illinois State, Northern Iowa and Loyola see a conference that is up for grabs.

SIU volleyball’s first home match will be on Aug. 29 at Davies Gym against Arkansas State University. First serve is set for 7 p.m.

Sports reporter Nathan Dodd can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @NathanMDodd.

To stay up to date with all your SIU sports news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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