Salukis fall to Redbirds in five set stunner


(Brian Munoz | @BrianMMunoz)

Freshman outside hitter Maggie Nedoma and senior middle hitter Kolby Meeks attempt a block Friday, Oct. 20, 2017 during the Salukis’ Dig for a Cure match against Bradley at Davies Gym. (Brian Munoz | @BrianMMunoz)

By Dillon Gilliland

The Saluki volleyball team suffered its fifth straight conference loss of the season Friday night, dropping the annual Dig for a Cure matchup to the Illinois State Redbirds in five sets (18-25, 26-24, 25-22, 11-25, 13-15).

SIU entered Friday evening’s matchup against the Redbirds looking to not only end their four-game conference losing streak, but put an end to ISU’s four-game winning streak.

This was the second time the two teams have met this season, with the Redbirds taking the first matchup on a clean 3-0 set sweep.


Friday’s match also represented the Salukis annual Dig for a Cure game, where fans came dressed in pink and the Southern volleyball team played in pink uniforms. All proceeds went to Saluki Strength Breast Cancer Fund.

The game also featured SIU’s swimming and diving team taking part in the Saluki Strip, where the athletes show up with 25 pieces of clothing on over their swimsuits and strip an article of clothing off for every point scored in a set by the Salukis. A tradition of support between two sports teams on campus that first-year volleyball head coach Kari Thompson had yet to see in action before Friday.

“We had a great atmosphere,” Thompson said. “Davies [Gym] was rocking.”

The first set of the match began tight as both teams battled back and forth to an early 4-4 tie.

The Redbirds quickly pulled away with a couple of three-point runs putting them ahead of the Salukis 10-5.

Southern proved resilient as it went on a three-point run of its own, sparked by back-to-back aces by junior middle blocker Patience brown, bringing the score to 10-8 and forcing ISU to take a timeout.

Illinois State came out of the timeout and struck back at the Salukis, putting together a two-point run and a three-point run to extend its lead to 17-12 and force SIU to take its first timeout of the set.


The Salukis never found their footing again as they went on to lose the first set 25-18, putting the Redbirds up 1-0 in the match.

ISU carried its first set momentum over into the second as the Redbirds quickly jumped to a 6-3 lead over the Salukis.

SIU scraped its way back midway through the set with the help of three kills by freshman opposite hitter Maggie Nedoma making the score 12-11 in favor of ISU.

The Salukis surrendered one more point to the Redbirds before going on a three-point run to take their first lead of the set 14-13, forcing the Redbirds to take a timeout.

Illinois State came out of the timeout fighting as they went on a three-point run to take the lead back 16-14.

Southern proved to be no pushover, taking six of the next seven points to put them ahead of the Redbirds 20-18.

The Redbirds utilized two strategic time outs to slow the Salukis onslaught and allow them to take control of the match 24-22.

Powered by redshirt senior outside hitter Andrea Estrada’s three kills, SIU scored four-straight points to take the set 26-24 and tie the match at 1-1.

“It’s all about hitting hard and trying to score,” Estrada said.

With the help of senior outside hitter Abby Barrow’s back-to-back kills, SIU jumped to a quick 7-3 lead in the third set, forcing Illinois State to take an early timeout.

Mary Newman | @MaryNewmanDE
Members of the Swimming and Diving team support SIU volleyball in the ‘Dig for a Cure’ match against Bradley at Davies Gym. (Brian Munoz | @BrianMMunoz)

ISU fought to keep it close following the timeout, never letting SIU pull too far ahead. The Salukis called their first timeout of the set up 19-17 on the Redbirds.

Southern answered each point from Illinois State following the timeout, with a kill by Estrada powering SIU to a 25-22 third set win and a 2-1 match lead.

The Redbirds bounced back from the tough third set loss by claiming a quick 7-1 lead in the fourth, forcing SIU to take an early timeout.

Illinois State continued to find the gaps in the Saluki defense and never slowed down as the Redbirds went on to win the fourth set in dominant fashion 25-11, tying the match at 2-2.

ISU continued to dominate SIU in the final set, jumping out to an immediate lead and holding control on the way to a 15-13 fifth set win and 3-2 match victory.

“Our attitude was better,” Estrada said. “We were scrappy and aggressive.”

Estrada led the Salukis in kills with a total of 20 on the night.

Sophomore setter Alayna Martin led the team in assists with a total of 33.

Senior libero Ashley Edelen led the team in digs with a total of 24.

Brown led the team in both blocks and services aces with a total of three blocks and two aces.

“We had our ups and down but we really battled,” Thompson said.

SIU (4-16, 3-6 MVC) meets Bradley University for the second time this season Saturday at Davies Gym for another conference matchup. First serve is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Sports reporter Dillon Gilliland can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @DillonGilliland.

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