Volleyball enters final stretch

By Tyler Dixon

 

Cedar Falls has not been kind to the Salukis the past few decades, but after this weekend SIU volleyball picked up its first win at the University of Northern Iowa since 1985.

It was another successful road trip for SIU. After knocking off then Missouri Valley Conference leader Northern Iowa, they traveled to Drake University where they swept the Bulldogs, putting them at 10-5 in the MVC with three games left in the season.

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The Salukis jumped out to a 25-21 win in the first set before dropping the second. The Panthers had a 24-19 lead in the third set, but SIU did not waiver. They fought back and won the set 27-25. SIU controlled the entire fourth set to come away with the set win 25-17 and the match.

It has become routine for senior outside hitter Jessica Whitehead to lead the Salukis in kills, as she finished the match with 21. Fellow senior outside hitter Elly Braaten continued her solid final season with 14 kills. Freshman setter Meg Viggars has been a complete player for SIU in her first season. Viggars finished third in the match with 12 kills and led the team in digs with 22.

Viggars said she could not take all the credit for her play this season.

“I think I’ve been up and down (this season,) I think the team’s really helped me,” Viggars said.

The team has been smashing records all season. Braaten said they have all the momentum right now.

“It is the best feeling, this is another mark to add to the history we are making,” Braaten said. “They were the number one team and we’ve beat them twice now.”

Head Coach Justin Ingram said a key moment in the match was his team’s comeback in the third set.

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“I thought as that momentum switched happened our mechanics were sharper,” Ingram said. “Meg (Viggars) heated up quite a bit offensively and defensively.”

As the team celebrated its victory over Northern Iowa, they had to keep their composure for the next night’s match against Drake, which could be looked at as a trap game.

Ingram said his team has discussed that they need to pay attention to every opponent.

“We’re only as good as the product that we put out there that day,” Ingram said. “There’s no doubt anybody in this league can take it to us, just like we can take it to anyone else in this league.”

After the two-hour bus ride to Des Moines, Iowa, the team was ready to get some much needed rest and prepare for the next day’s game.

The Salukis were never threatened in their match against the Bulldogs.

They dominated the first set 25-12 and cruised in the second winning 25-19. Despite a sideout percentage of only 40 percent in the third set, they were able to get the sweep with 25-21 to win in the final set.

Braaten said her team started the match strong and never looked back. She said it is important for her and her fellow seniors to stay consistent to help lead the team into the last few games.

“We came in ready to play, we beat them the first set 12-25 so we were fired up and ready to go,” she said.

Ingram said teams must go through a grind later in the season and he team has handled it well.

“The good thing is that we continued to improve in every match,” he said.

Tyler Dixon can be reached at [email protected] or 536-3311 ext. 269.

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