SIU splits matches in home opener of Saluki Bash

By Brooke Buerck, Sports Reporter

The Salukis were continuing to strive for improvements after grabbing their first win at home

The Southern Illinois Salukis Women’s Volleyball team began their campaign at home this weekend in the first two games of Saluki Bash held at the Banterra Center on Friday evening. 

Today additionally marked head coach Ed Allen’s first games at home in his first year with the Salukis. 

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SIU entered their matches today coming off of a 1-2 finish at the Marcia Hamilton Classic Tournament held at St. Louis University last weekend, and with a week in between to make improvements, Allen noted that he saw pieces of their game plan executed tonight.

The Salukis claimed a victory for their first home match of the season on Friday afternoon against Alabama A&M. 

Last year the Salukis opened their home tournament held in the SIU Arena with a win over Alabama A&M as well, capturing a swift victory in just three sets; 25-16, 25-11, and 25-16.

This year, however, Alabama A&M jumped out to a 25-17 win over the Salukis in the first set. 

 “We committed too many errors and had too many self-inflicted mistakes,” reflected head coach Ed Allen, but noted that the Salukis handled first-ball contacts well on the defensive end. 

The Salukis were able to rally to an exciting 33-31 win to take the second set. 

After some lineup adjustments, the Salukis were able to secure two more sets, 25-19 and 25-20 to claim their first game at home as a win. The Salukis averaged .419 and .441 in the third and fourth sets respectfully, capitalizing on offensive chances to push to a strong finish.

Freshman Alex Washington finished the game with her third-straight double-double of the season in just five games, finishing the game with 16 kills and 16 digs. 

Senior setter Alayna Martin tallied 30 assists for the night to drive Southern’s offense, while senior defensive specialist Laura Rojas dug up 17 balls in the back row. 

Later Friday evening, the Salukis faced Southern Illinois University Edwardsville for their final match of the day.

The Salukis took the Cougars to four sets in this game as well, but were unable to find the win.

Head coach Allen noted that their lack of success in this match was due to shortcomings on the defensive end, something that he says his team needs to focus on.

Allen stated that his team needed to improve their “ability to execute a game plan as it relates to blocking,” as well as “[being] able to get through and under balls.”

The first set of the match was back-and-forth for nearly the entirety of the match, the largest point difference being only at four early in the game.

The Salukis started off strong with kills from Washington and  junior Savannah Sheridan, both assisted by Martin. 

Martin, from Chesterfield, Missouri, would go on to assist both  junior Hannah Becker and Sheridan to a kill each as well, eventually tying the game 12-12 before the Cougars were able to side out, or regain possession of the ball.

The game continued with neither team gaining a significant lead, and a hitting error from SIUE brought the game back to an 18-all tie.

A block from senior middle blocker Emma Baalman would then allow the Salukis their first advantage of the game, and another kill from Sheridan would bring the game to a 20-20 tie. 

However, the Cougars rallied back with two consecutive kills, coming from  sophomore middle blocker Hope Everett and junior middle blocker Rachel McDonald, forcing the Salukis to a time-out call at 22-20. 

The Salukis were able to side out on a hitting error from Edwardsville, but couldn’t regain momentum. Following another kill from McDonald, SIUC took a time-out on the Cougars’ game point. 

Washington was able to rally the team to within one point with a kill from the outside, but the Salukis were unable to dig up a hit from SIUE’s redshirt freshman middle blocker Savannah Christian. The Cougars took game one of the set 25-23.

Set two of the match started off with back-and-forth action as well, including two kills from SIUE’s Everett. 

The Salukis were able to break off with the lead at 4-3 after after an exciting defensive effort from the back row forced SIUE into sending the ball out of bounds, sparking a huge wave of momentum for SIUC. 

Junior setter Rachel Maguire and  junior Hannah Becker extended the early lead for the Salukis, Maguire with an ace and Becker with a kill to propel the Salukis to 6-3.

Kills from Sheridan and Washington, each one apiece, along with two unforced errors on behalf of the Cougars forced SIUE, down 10-4, into a time-out call. 

The Salukis were then able to further their lead to 12-4.

Later, two back-to-back service errors, one from each team, brought the game to 17-11 in favor of the Salukis, and a kill from the right side by Maguire extended the lead to 18-11.

A block from Becker brought the Salukis to a 22-14 lead, forcing SIUE into taking their second time-out of the set. 

While the Cougars were able to side out coming out of the time-out with a hitting error coming from the Salukis, SIUE was never able to regain momentum. 

The Salukis were held up at set point for three consecutive plays before Maguire was able to put a ball down from the left side, giving the Salukis their first set of the match to tie with SIUE 1-1.

Following their loss in the second set, the Cougars jumped out to a 4-2 lead over the Salukis.

The Salukis struggled to find momentum early on in this set, committing multiple hitting errors before taking a time-out while down 9-4.

Still struggling, however, Allen called another time-out shortly after, the Salukis down 12-4 at this point.

SIUC  finally found relief with a kill from junior Kyra Hunter on the right side, bringing the score to 13-5. 

The Salukis were back-and-forth again with the Cougars for the next several sequences, including kills from Washington and Maguire for SIUC.

Kluge was able to bring the Salukis to within six points of the Cougars with an ace, her second one of the game, bringing the game to 18-12 in favor of Edwardsville.

Washington kept the Salukis within seven with a kill from the outside off the set from Maguire.

With Washington back to serve the Salukis were able to make a run, Cougars only leading by four at 21-17. 

A kill from junior outside hitter Kiana Fields gave the Cougars the 23-18 advantage, pushing to take game point off the kill from Christian. 

The Salukis rallied back with a kill from Sheridan, but their efforts fell short as Everett put down a kill to seal the win for SIUE, 25-20.

Maguire started off match four with a kill for the Salukis, and Martin served an ace to put the Salukis up early on. 

The Cougars, however, rallied back with three kills in a row, one each coming from McDonald, senior outside hitter Dylynn Otte, and Christian. 

Maguire and Sheridan responded for the Salukis with one kill each as well, Lindsey Paulsen chipping in as well to help the Salukis break away with an 8-5 lead.  

Otte brought the momentum back for the Cougars with two service aces to bring the game to 10-9. Then, a kill from McDonald would force the Salukis into taking a time-out at 11-9.

After rallying with the Cougars, the Salukis were forced to take their second time-out of the game, with SIUE up 17-12. 

The Salukis fought back to 19-14 with a kill from Maguire, but the Cougars pushed back with a kill from Everett and a block from Otte.

The Salukis weren’t able to find their momentum this game as well, SIUE took the win 25-17, ending the match with a service ace from SIUC. 

Following both games, Allen praised junior  Hannah Becker for her flexibility as a hitter. Against SIUE, Becker hit at a .273, getting swings from both the middle and the right side.

“That’s having to fulfill a lot of responsibilities,” Allen remarked.

Becker finished with seven kills for the game.

Washington finished with 11 in the match while Sheridan was able to put down 10. 

Laura Rojas headed Saluki back-row defending once again with 17 digs, with Maguire and Martin chipping in 14 and 10, respectfully.

Tomorrow Saluki Bash continues as Southern (2-3) takes on Southeastern Louisiana at 1:30 at the Banterra Center.

Sports reporter Brooke Buerck can be reached at [email protected] 

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