Exhibition games help learning curve

Exhibition games help learning curve

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.

Before the regular season tips off, teams schedule one or two games to help their players get accustomed to new rule changes, the speed of the game and to work through problems they did not see coming.

The Salukis wrapped up their final exhibition game Saturday against William Jewell College. The team came away with the 78-66 win, but it was Coach Barry Hinson’s decisions in the locker room that spoke volumes rather than his reactions on the court.

Senior guard Desmar Jackson and sophomore guard Anthony Beane were late to warm-ups and were benched by Hinson for the first half. Senior Davante Drinkard said with those two key players being on the bench, everyone else had to take a bigger role.

“(I) feel great, I took it as a challenge and stepped up to the challenge,” Drinkard said. “We had some guys that were out in the first half and we had to make up for them.”

Hinson said he knew Jackson and Beane would not play well in the game after he let them know he was upset, but he bets they show up on time at the next game.

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“I discovered we had two players who had 50 points last week, and then they were late, and we had a couple of other incidents in the locker room that just didn’t meet my approval,” Hinson said.

With as many new players as the Salukis have, the exhibition games have been vital in preparing them for the speed and toughness of the college game.

Freshman Sean O’Brien said the first game was a lot faster and he felt more comfortable in Saturday’s game. Despite the strong offensive game from the Salukis, O’Brien said they have to get better on the court without having the basketball.

“We just have a lot to improve in, especially in rebounding and defense,” O’Brien said. “If we work on that then we should be alright.”

A telling stat from the two exhibition games is the number of fouls called. In the University of St. Louis game 50 fouls were called, and 46 were called in the game against William Jewel.

Hinson said it would be difficult to have a flow to the game with the way it is currently being officiated.

“They’re so confused right now… this is not the officials fault,” Hinson said. “It is a mandate from the NCAA, these guys are as messed up and as unsure as they’ve ever been.”

Drinkard said it is difficult defending in the post, because you cannot put any hands on the ball-handler.

“Luckily tonight the refs were helping me, they were telling me get your hands off, don’t touch them,” Drinkard said. “They talked you through it, but it’s going to be a tough challenge throughout the year.”

As the season progresses, the identity of the team could change, but Drinkard said it is about working together as a group.

“I know we’ll play hard, I know everybody is going to step up to the challenge and go out there and accept their role and do the best they can,” Drinkard said. “That’s the only thing we can be sure of right now.”

Hinson said it would not be his team’s opponent on the court that gives them the most trouble right now.

“Our biggest opponent right now is experience and it’s going to be for quite some time,” Hinson said. “We’re not as good as the team we were last year, but I think we can be better.”

Hinson announced Sunday the team would redshirt freshman guard K.C. Goodwin. Hinson said Goodwin is a vital part of the team going forward. Goodwin did not score in either postseason game, but had six rebounds in 26 minutes between the two games.

“We strongly believe K.C. is an important part of the future of this program,” Hinson said. “A redshirt year where he can build strength and adjust to the college game will greatly benefit both K.C. and Saluki basketball in the long term.”

Tyler Dixon can be reached at

[email protected]

or 536-3311 ext. 269.

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