Daily Egyptian

Dawg talk with Dodd: A semester in sports

When the spring semester began on Jan. 16, multiple SIU sports teams were in the midst of their seasons while others had yet to begin.

Men’s and women’s basketball highlighted the teams in session as students returned to Carbondale following the winter break.

The women’s squad, led by senior guard Kylie Giebelhausen, posted a 17-14 record, including a respectable 11-7 mark in Missouri Valley Conference play.

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Although they were eliminated by Drake in the semifinals of the MVC Tournament, the Saluki women proved why they should be a contender in the league for years to come.

The emergence of freshmen forward Abby Brockmeyer, guard Makenzie Silvey and sophomore guard Nicole Martin displayed a strong, young core for head coach Cindy Stein’s squad.

Both Giebelhause and Martin earned First Team All-MVC, while Silvey and Brockmeyer received All-Freshman honors. Brockmeyer also took the top honor of MVC Freshman of the Year.

On the flip side, the men’s team put together a fairly impressive season with a short bench and a roster that battled injuries virtually all season.

With a 20-13 (11-7 MVC) record, the Salukis secured their second 20-win season in the past three years and reestablished the hope of postseason play for fans of SIU basketball.

Led by recipients of multiple league awards including junior guards Armon Fletcher and Sean Lloyd, junior center Kavion Pippen and senior guard Tyler Smithpeters, the Salukis were still unable to secure a postseason berth.

The overtime loss to Illinois State at the MVC Tournament marked the end of the season for Southern and sparked the public’s backlash of head coach Barry Hinson, who finished third in the Coach of the Year voting.

Southern should still be on pace to rank near the top of the Valley next season as the Salukis return their starting lineup and should get back forward Thik Bol after he sat out the entire 2017-18 season.

The most recent season finishes came on the links as the men’s and women’s golf teams completed their seasons at the MVC Championships earlier this month.

Led by senior Hanna Netisingha, the Saluki women finished in the top 10 in every tournament of the season including three tournament victories in the fall.

At the MVC Championships, the Salukis placed third but saw Netisingha and senior Alice Ho earn a nod to the MVC All-Conference team. Freshman Moyea Russell took the title of the MVC Newcomer of the Year.

The men’s golf squad suffered a similar fate at the MVC Tournament as the Salukis fell just short of the title with a second-place finish.

The Salukis had their share of ups and downs throughout the season, however, the one consistent factor in the lineup was junior Peyton Wilhoit.

An All-Conference recipient, a top-10 finisher in six tournaments and eight nods as the league’s Golfer of the Week earned Wilhoit the MVC Golfer of the Year title, the first in school history.

Fellow junior Luke Gannon joined Wilhoit as a member of the All-Conference team after he topped Southern’s scorecard with a 5-over-par in a tie for fourth place.

Still in season are the Saluki softball and baseball squads, each of which will close out the season in the coming weeks.

The softball team, which won the conference last season, currently holds a record of 27-20 (10-11 MVC) at the time of writing.

With just one series left before the MVC Tournament kicks off, the Salukis are in a position to finish as high as third in the Valley but are tied in the win column with four other teams.

Much of SIU’s success thus far can be attributed to the performance of junior pitcher Brianna Jones. She currently boasts a record of 22-7 with a 2.19 ERA to go along with 22 complete games, four shutouts and 192 strikeouts.

On the offensive side, the Salukis have gotten a spark from various members of the lineup.

Sophomore catcher Katelyn Massa has provided a consistent source of power and average as she leads the team with nine home runs and 45 RBI. She also has 11 doubles and is hitting at a clip of .313.

Along with Massa, sophomore infielder Maddy Vermejan and freshman outfielder Jenny Jansen have been catalysts for the offense as they own batting averages of .365 and .325, respectively. The duo has also combined for 12 homers and 50 RBI.

Sitting in fourth place in the Valley at the time of writing, the Saluki baseball team still has three series to play until the MVC Tournament.

To this point, the top of the Salukis’ lineup has been a consistent factor in the team’s 24 wins, while the pitching still remains in question.

At the time of writing, senior first baseman Logan Blackfan and shortstop Connor Kopach tie for the team-lead with a .353 batting average. Blackfan has also tacked on 10 homers and 52 RBI.

Kopach has ranked amongst the league’s and the nation’s top shortstops as he has slugged four homers, four triples, 12 doubles and driven in 33 runs. He also leads the team with 25 stolen bases.

Recently sophomore pitcher Dylan Givens has been a hot hand for the rotation in midweek games as his record sits at 4-0 with a 2.50 ERA. He has racked up 28 strikeouts compared to only eight walks.

The aces of the pitching staff, however, have been senior Michael Baird and sophomore Brad Harrison.

Through 11 starts, Baird has compiled a 4-3 record and holds a 2.99 ERA. He has thrown two complete games, one of which was a shutout.

Harrison has secured five wins in his 11 starts and has an ERA of 3.53.

Following the conclusion of the MVC Baseball Tournament, the athletic calendar will conclude for the spring semester. However, most teams will begin to work out this summer and will feature their newest signees next season.

Sports editor 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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