Southern rallies through long match to find first conference win

By Brooke Buerck, Sports Reporter

The  Salukis battled for five sets with the Bradley University Braves, winning the match 3-2 at Peoria with the help of junior opposite hitter Hannah Becker’s team- and game-leading 18 kills.

Despite two weather delays, forcing the game to last over three hours long total, the Salukis found a way to win.

Tonight’s game was the first Missouri Valley Conference matchup for the Salukis (9-6, 1-0), and their win ties them for the total amount of conference games won last year. The Braves swept the Salukis 3-0 in both of their matchups last season. 

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Bradley (4-8, 0-1) took on the Salukis in their first conference matchup of the season as well, their most previous game having been a win over the Northern Illinois University Huskers on Sept. 21. 

Southern Illinois came out strong in the first set against Bradley, using an early 8-0 advantage over the Braves to win the set 25-22.

Despite the early deficit, Bradley was able to rally back to a 17-17 tie with Southern Illinois, using large scoring runs with the help of kills from sophomore outside hitters Kat Poore and Rachel Pranger. 

The Salukis, however, were able to push ahead and regain their lead to finish out the set.

During the first set, the Dawgs recorded a .263 hitting percentage, putting down 13 kills altogether. Out of those 13, junior setter and outside hitter Rachel Maguire was able to put down five. 

Maguire would have a total of 17 kills for the night, adding to her 24 assists and 17 digs to record yet another triple-double for the season.

Bradley was able to rally back from their first set loss to defeat Southern 25-23 in the second set. 

Although Bradley maintained an early lead over the Salukis, Southern Illinois was able to rally to tie the game at 19-19. 

Using a 4-0 run, with junior outside hitter Savannah Sheridan putting down two kills in the process, the Salukis were able to take the 23-22 advantage. Sheridan put down a total of 13 kills for the night.

Bradley’s sophomore outside hitter Hannah Thompson, however, was able to help the Braves finish out the game with a win by putting down two kills.

The Braves were able to put down a total of 20 kills in the set compared to the Salukis’ 13. 

With the game tied 1-1, Southern rallied back from the previous set’s loss to defeat the Braves 26-24.

Headed into the third set, Bradley lead the Salukis 8-7, but a tornado warning in Peoria put the game into a twenty-minute weather delay. 

Both teams returned to play with energy, and SIU was able to use that energy to take a 15-13 advantage. 

Bradley, however, responded with a 5-0 run, including two kills from Thompson and an assist in a block as well. 

Despite a 23-20 deficit, the Salukis battled back, scoring on six of the last seven plays of the game to take the win.

The Braves followed with another set win of their own, 25-22 over Southern Illinois.

The Braves opened up with an 8-4 lead over the Salukis, forcing the Salukis to fight their way back to a 15-all tie. 

Bradley continued to push ahead from the tie, and two kills from freshman middle blocker Reann Bergman helped Bradley take a 23-21 lead.

The set wouldn’t be decided for another twenty minutes due to another weather delay from a tornado siren, but Bradley, upon return to play, finished the set.

In a fifth deciding set, the Salukis found the win, 15-11 over Bradley. With play back-and-forth in the beginning of the set, the Salukis were able to finally pull away with the match. 

Senior setter Alayna Martin finished the match with a double-double on digs and assists, tallying 25 of each, along with nine kills.

Martin had the second-most digs for the Salukis for the night, trailing only behind senior defensive specialist Laura Rojas, who recorded 28.

Sports reporter Brooke Buerck can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @bbuerck25

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