In the Dawg Pound with Dillon

Saluki Volleyball winless in conference play

By Dillon Gilliland, Sports editor

Four games into conference play and the Saluki volleyball team has yet to find their first MVC win of the 2018 season.

In the 2017 season, the Dawgs found one victory in 11 games during nonconference play.

This year things looked a little more promising as they opened up nonconference play with a 4-9 record with some close games against teams such as nationally ranked University of Florida.

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The Salukis were swept in some games they should have at least took a set in, such as the loss to Murray State as well as Southeast Missouri State University.

In the previous season, SIU came out strong with a 3-1 start in their first four conference games with wins against Bradley University, Valparaiso and University of Evansville.

Their only loss came against Illinois State, which ended in a sweep.

This season, it has been the complete opposite as the Salukis have lost their first four conference games with all four ending in sweeps.

In the conference opener against Bradley, SIU struggled only obtaining at least 20 points in one of the three sets.

Bradley is the top team in the Missouri Valley Conference at the moment with a 14-2 overall record and a flawless 4-0 record in the conference.

While I did not expect Southern to take that game, I did at least think that they would take at least one set or make it closer than it actually was.

Senior middle blocker Patience Brown and senior outside hitter Malvis Ortiz led the Salukis in kills during the conference opener with nine kills each.

In order for the team to be capable of knocking down one of the top teams, they need to have someone step up more on the offensive end and put up at least double digit kills.

SIU’s second conference game against Illinois State was a little different as they came out in the first set keeping it close, but still falling short at 25-22.

From there Southern began to fall apart as they only combined for 30 points in the final two sets.

Sophomore opposite hitter Maggie Nedoma led SIU in kills with nine.

Once again the Dawgs need someone to step up and take charge in order for them to take some sets off of these teams.

Southern’s third loss to Valpo was like watching the Illinois State loss all over again.

They came out fighting and just slowly fell apart in the final sets.

The only difference was that someone hit double digit kills, with Nedoma netting 12.

In SIU’s most recent loss to the Missouri State Bears, it was the exact opposite as the Dawgs came out slow and proceeded to fight back later in the game.

While Southern fought hard in that game, there is no reason why SIU should not have taken at least one set.

The Salukis have always played well against the Bears, and for the first time in years Missouri State is not the superior team that they have been.

The main issue lies in the fact that no one is stepping up and establishing their self as the leader of the team.

Yes, a handful of the players are playing well, but no one is standing out from the crowd.

Another common theme is the team giving up.

Last year, the Salukis were notorious for coming out strong and falling off in the end.

Whether that has to do with fatigue or the team giving up, it is still carrying over to this season.

Nevertheless, there is still an upside, which is SIU’s next two games are against winless teams — giving them an opportunity to achieve their first win and also gain some momentum before heading into some tougher opponents.

On top of that it is still a young season, meaning the Salukis still have time to bounce back and find themselves.

They have plenty of time to get things together and possibly make the MVC Tournament.

At the end of the day it is still a young team and that has a new coach.

I still believe that no matter how the team is performing at this point, that they will still find their groove and have a big turnaround towards the end of the season.

The Salukis just better make sure that they do not figure things out too late, or they will be spending the post season at home again.

The Dawgs will be back in action on Friday when they travel to Evansville, Indiana to take on the Evansville Purple Aces. First serve is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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

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