Southern rallies past Illinois State in four sets

Saluki+sophomore+Katy+Kluge+celebrates+with+teammates+during+their+3-1+win+vs.+Illinois+State+on+Friday%2C+Oct.+25%2C+2019+at+Davies+gym.+
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Southern rallies past Illinois State in four sets

Saluki sophomore Katy Kluge celebrates with teammates during their 3-1 win vs. Illinois State on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019 at Davies gym.

Saluki sophomore Katy Kluge celebrates with teammates during their 3-1 win vs. Illinois State on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019 at Davies gym.

Jared Treece | @jaredtreece

Saluki sophomore Katy Kluge celebrates with teammates during their 3-1 win vs. Illinois State on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019 at Davies gym.

Jared Treece | @jaredtreece

Jared Treece | @jaredtreece

Saluki sophomore Katy Kluge celebrates with teammates during their 3-1 win vs. Illinois State on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019 at Davies gym.

By Brooke Buerck, Sports Reporter

Heading into the second half of their Missouri Valley Conference play season, the Saluki volleyball team had their second shot at Illinois State University on Friday night.

SIU took down the Redbirds in just four sets, faltering only in the second: 25-18, 14-25, 26-24 and 25-23.

Southern Illinois faced Illinois State for the first time this season on Sept. 28, dropping a 3-0 match to the Redbirds on the road.

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“I’m really pleased with how they are growing competitively,” head coach Ed Allen said. “We played equally as hard in most matches that we’ve had all year. The difference [tonight] is we executed.”

The Salukis (12-12; 4-6 MVC) took the court tonight coming off of a win over the Missouri State University Bears on Monday night. The game broke a five-game skid.

The Redbirds (13-8; 6-3 MVC) entered tonight’s match with a 3-1 victory over Valparaiso on Oct. 19.

Junior outside hitter Hannah Becker finished the night with a career-high 20 kills out of 39 attempts.

“She’s embraced being the player that we needed her to be,” Allen said. “She’s the most physical player we have on the team.”

Senior defensive specialist Laura Rojas held down the Saluki defense with 17 digs and 28 service receptions.

“You’re getting a chance to see the impact that Laura has on this team,” Allen said.

Rojas returned on Monday after missing four games in a row.

SIU controlled the tempo throughout the first set, forcing the Redbirds into two early timeouts. The Salukis pushed away from an 8-8 tie to take the lead for the rest of the set.

The Salukis had the Redbird defense scrambling during the first set, tallying two aces, as a team, to go with 13 kills while hitting at a .323 clip.

Becker had five of her kills for the night already in the first set.

It was the Redbirds who set the tone for the second set, making a 7-1 lead late into the set to take the win.

Illinois State put down a total of 17 kills in the second set on 28 attempts with just one error.

Heading into the third set, Southern gave themselves an early 11-6 lead.

The Redbirds worked to tie the game at 16-16 off of a three-point run fueled by two kills from junior outside hitter Kaylee Martin.

ISU continued to push, taking the lead at 20-19, but it would be a battle between the two teams to the finish.

Between the two teams, a total of 13 serves were missed during the match.

The Salukis took the lead early in the fourth set, 13-10 over Illinois State.

SIU fought to maintain the lead, but ISU used a four-point run to take an 18-16 advantage.

Two back-to-back aces from sophomore defender Katy Kluge allowed the Salukis to take the 20-19 lead, and a kill from junior middle hitter Lindsey Paulsen kept Southern on top.

Illinois State put up a battle in the last few points, but the Salukis wouldn’t allow the Redbirds a chance to make their way back in the game.

Tomorrow night, the Salukis will take on the Bradley University Braves for the second time this season.

On Sept. 27, Southern Illinois battled through five sets to take down the Braves in their first MVC win of the season.

Allen said the team celebrates their win for the night, but expects Bradley to come out tomorrow with energy.

“You get a chance to enjoy this [win] until you wake up tomorrow,” Allen said. “You’ve got another match that you’re required to score 75 points [in].”

First serve for tomorrow night’s match is set for 5 p.m. at Davies Gym.

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

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