Fierce five set battle ends in win for Southern over SEMO

The SIU women’s volleyball team took the floor in Davies Gym for the very first time this season to face the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks (4-2).

The Salukis won this tough five set match three sets to two.

While junior setter/hitter Rachel Maguire did not have a record setting game as far as stats, Saluki head Coach Ed Allen commended her on her level headedness throughout the course of the game and her ability to come through for the team on the final play of the set.

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“Rachel had a tough match and didn’t hit near the percentage she’s usually at,” Allen said. “At the same time, to show her toughness, she gets the game winning kill. I think it’s important, no matter how you’re performing, that you can put it all aside because when it comes down to one point, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past. I think she did a brilliant job of that. She’s a mature and steady kid. Ultimately she will be the person who drives this team because she never leaves the floor.” 

After the ups and downs of tonight’s sets, Coach Allen is looking for his team to be more consistent in upcoming games.

“We’re still trying to be consistent with everything we do,” said Saluki head coach Ed Allen. “We’ve got to be able to execute that ball. That’s an area that has to improve as we move through the month.”

Tonight’s matchup marked the 37th meeting of the two teams with Southern holding a 24-12 lead over the Redhawks in the all time series.

SIU entered the game tonight on a win against Southeastern Louisiana University, while Southeast entered on a three game win streak after claiming the title at their home invitational this past weekend.

Set 1

Southeast got the game started with the first serve and kill of the game, but lost possession on the next play after hitting the ball out of bounds.

While the Redhawks were ahead in kills, Southern kept the game close by blocking at the net and earning kills of their own.

Junior middle hitter Lindsey Paulsen got the ball rolling for Southern in this department putting up three back-to-back kills, while freshman outside hitter Alex Washington followed suit notching two more after a rotation moved Paulsen out of the game.

Paulsen finished the game with the highest hitting percentage on the team with .381 and totaled nine kills and five blocks at the end of the night. 

Allen commended Paulsen on her consistent performance at the net after the game.

“Lindsey has been playing terrific,” Allen said. “She started off the season playing pretty well for us, but was out for awhile due to concussion protocol. She did a brilliant job of being able to step up. She was the highest hitting percentage tonight for us.”

Neither team was able to gain enough momentum to hold onto a sizable lead and this kept the game close with the score entering the first media timeout being 15-13 with Southeast ahead.

Two service errors from Southern and a kill on the SEMO end gave the Redhawks the biggest lead either team had in the set at 18-14.

It appeared that SIU would take the lead when they earned three consecutive points to make it a one-point game, but three following service errors by the Salukis and kills from the Redhawks would take away this momentum and allow Southeast to take the win in the first set at 25-20.

Set 2

Washington got the Salukis off to an early start in the second set with a kill and a service ace to give the team a small 2-1 lead.

The Redhawks took off on a five point run after the two consecutive points from Southern to take the lead at 7-3 forcing SIU to call a timeout.

Strong net play and attack errors from Southeast allowed the Salukis to relieve the deficit to just a single point.

A service ace after a SEMO timeout from sophomore Katy Kluge sent the crowd into an uproar and the game into a tie at 10-10.

The game continued to tie with each team gaining small one-point leads over the other, only to lose the ball on the next possession.

After several minutes of close play, it was the Redhawks who were able to gain a three point lead over SIU putting the score at 21-18. When the third straight point was scored by the Redhawks, a timeout was called on Southern’s end.

This timeout gave the Salukis just enough time to regroup as they were able to force a service error immediately after.

 Individual kills from junior middle hitter Savannah Sheridan and junior opposite hitter Kyra Hunter tied the game up at 21-21.

After another tie at 22- all, a kill from Paulsen and two service aces from Kluge put Southern at game-point.

With the score at 24-22 and SIU fans on their feet, Washington sent a strong attack over the net, with an assist from junior setter/hitter Rachel Maguire, that SEMO was not able to return. 

This kill sealed the Southern set win at 25-22 and tied the teams at one set each overall.

Set 3

Despite the third set beginning with close play, the Redhawks were able to gain a small lead on Southern after going on a four point scoring run.

However, the Saluki front row kept Southeast within close reach as four individual players earned one or more kills within a matter of minutes.

A kill from sophomore middle hitter Hannah Becker brought SIU within one point of SEMO with the score at 12-11 approaching the media timeout.

The one point deficit was short lived as Southeast took off on a seven point scoring run, causing Southern to use two of its timeouts in the set nearly back-to-back.

After the run reached 11 points, Maguire was able to put down a set from senior defensive specialist Laura Rojas to regain possession of the ball. The kill from the junior setter/hitter put the score at 23-12 with the Salukis trailing by 11 points.

Southern was unable to come back from the large deficit and the Redhawks took the set 25-13 giving them a 2-1 advantage approaching the final two sets of the matchup.

Set 4

Two kills from Becker and a service ace from Washington gave the Salukis an early advantage in the fourth set. 

Southeast responded with a kill of its own, but a kill from Sheridan quickly gave SIU possession of the ball once again with the score at 4-2.

The teams battled and the game was kept neck-and-neck as both sides traded kills and errors.

Southern, however, found a way to come out ahead earning nearly five consecutive points to put them up 12-7.

The Salukis played strong at the net earning kills with Washington and blocks with Hunter and Becker. 

SIU managed to stay ahead of the Redhawks for the remainder of the set, eventually winning it 25-16 on a final kill from Washington.

Washington led the team in kills tonight with 12 total. The freshman also proved her strength on the defensive end as well finishing the night with the second most digs at 22.

Allen spoke about the team’s dependence on Washington and her play over the course of the five sets.

“Alex is a kid that has to learn how to play five sets because she’s a young player and hasn’t had to play that long,” Allen said. “She probably hasn’t had to have the responsibility on her to the degree that it is at this level because we really need her when it’s time to take over.”

This win for Southern tied the sets 2-2 between the teams, sending the game into a fifth and final set.

Set 5

The first point of the set was earned by SIU on a block from Paulsen.

The beginning of the set remained close with each team only gaining leads of one or two.

Southern earned the biggest lead of the set at three points when the score reached 8-5, but this was short lived as SEMO went on to score four straight points to take a one-point lead at 9-8.

With two back-to-back Saluki kills from Paulsen and Washington, SIU took the lead once again at 10-9 forcing Southeast to call a timeout.

With strong net play on both ends, the game continued to tie and the potential winner of the match was uncertain.

A kill on the SEMO side put the Redhawks at game-point with the score at 14-13. A timeout was called by SIU immediately after the play.

On the following play the Redhawks hit the ball out of bounds and this kept the Salukis in the game with the score tied at 14-14.

Having to win by two points each team played fiercely, not letting any balls touch the ground.

“Laura did a great job for us at the end of that match with being consistent and putting the ball in a good place for us to be able to defend,” Allen said.

After the score tied again at 15-all, Southern went on to earn three consecutive points on an attack error and kills from Sheridan and Maguire to clench the win in the final set at 17-15.

This set win solidified the matchup win for SIU at three sets to two.

This marked SIU Volleyball’s first five-set win in Davies Gym since their win against Evansville in September of 2017.

“They’re at a place right now where they’re just happy to win and be rewarded for the work that they’ve done,” Allen said. “I’m happy they’re winning because that makes them more willing to put in more effort.”

The Salukis (4-3) will be back in action at Davies Gym again this Friday at 12:30 pm when they take on the IUPUI Jaguars to kick off the Saluki Invitational.

Sports reporter Tamar Mosby can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @mosbytamar.

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