Salukis hang on for five sets against Evansville

By Brooke Buerck, Sports Reporter

Southern Illinois needed a win tonight to have a chance at making the MVC Tournament, and were able to take care of business in five sets against the University of Evansville Purple Aces. 

Southern overcame a 2-1 deficit after playing the first three sets to rally to a victory on Evansville’s Senior Night (25-23, 19-25, 23-25, 25-21, 15-10).

The Salukis’ 12th five-set match of the season was the one in which they broke SIU’s 1985 record of most digs in a season.

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The team found their  2,232nd dig of 2019 they needed to push them over the mark in the third set. 

Southern Illinois (14-17, 6-11 MVC) faced Evansville (16-11, 7-9 MVC) earlier this season on Oct. 18 at home, dropping the match in three sets. 

The loss broke a two-game win streak for the Purple Aces, while also breaking SIU’s three-game skid.

Junior setter Rachel Maguire continues to be a leader both in the league and in the nation with triple-doubles, putting up 15 kills, 15 digs, and 29 assists for SIU.

Three other Salukis recorded double-digit kills for the match as well: junior middle hitter Lindsey Paulsen and senior middle hitter Emma Baalman both had 10 apiece, and junior outside hitter Savannah Sheridan added 13.

Four Salukis had 20 digs or more for the match as well: senior defensive specialist Laura Rojas (27), senior setter Alayna Martin (22), freshman defender Abi Fitzpatrick (21), and sophomore defender Katy Kluge (20). 

For the Purple Aces, it was freshman outside hitter Melanie Feliciano who had a standout night, tallying 21 kills to pair with 21 digs.

Senior outside hitter Rachel Tam and sophomore outside hitter Alondra Vazquez joined Feliciano in recording double-doubles, Tam having 17 for the night with 23 digs while Vazquez had 15 kills with 24 digs. 

Southern took set one after fending off a late run from Evansville.

The Salukis led 24-20 and the Purple Aces scored three in a row looking to tie the game, but a missed serve would allow SIU to take the 1-0 lead headed into set two.

Evansville led with 19 kills to Southern’s 13, with Feliciano putting down 9 in the frame.

The Purple Aces adjusted in the second set, taking the 8-7 lead and holding onto it for the remainder of the set. 

Both Evansville and Southern Illinois had 14 kills on 43 attempts, but SIU’s had five more attack errors than the Purple Aces. 

Set three was down to the wire as neither team allowed more than a three point difference. 

Southern Illinois held a late 22-20 lead over Evansville, but wouldn’t be able to hold on as the Purple Aces pushed forward with the victory.

Backed into a corner, SIU found the win they needed to stay alive in the game by taking set four.

The Salukis broke away from a 16-all tie with a run that would give them the game and push the match to five sets. 

Southern jumped out to a 9-4 lead in the fifth, but Evansville would hang in the game with a three point run.

Looking to slow the Salukis, the Purple Aces called a timeout while down 13-10, but a kill from Paulsen and an attack error from Evansville would seal the deal for SIU.

 Southern has just one final regular season match left, and it will be played against Missouri State on Friday, Nov. 22 at Springfield, Missouri. 

First serve is set for 6:00 p.m. on the Bears’ home court. 

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

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