Nov. 27, 2013
By Robin Thuringer
WICHITA, Kan. - The Saluki volleyball team has had many "firsts" this season, and they hope that trend continues at the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament this week as they aim for the first MVC title in program history.
SIU qualified for the six-team field for the second-consecutive year, a feat that was last accomplished in 1995 and 1996.
Head coach Justin Ingram took over the program last season and his impact on Saluki Volleyball is unmistakable. He turned a team that finished last in the MVC in 2011 to a team that finished 21-9 overall and made a trip to the 2012 conference tournament.
The momentum continued into the 2013 season as Ingram welcomed 11 newcomers, including nine freshmen and four returnees. The Salukis topped Illinois State last Saturday to record their 13th conference win, tying the program record that was set in 1995.
The win sewed up a third seed for Southern at the tournament -- the highest SIU has finished in the Valley since 2002.
Earlier this season, SIU beat Northern Iowa to snap a 40-match losing streak that dated back to 1993. The Salukis also won a thrilling five-set match at Missouri State, for their first victory over the Bears in Springfield in 15 years. On Nov. 2, Southern topped Wichita State, ending a 23-match losing streak against the Shockers. Southern topped Northern Iowa again, this time in Cedar Falls on Nov. 8, marking the first win at UNI since 1985, which was the first series sweep ever against the Panthers.
The Salukis are 7-16 (.304) all-time at the tournament and have finished runner-up twice.
MVC Tournament Facts and Notes:
- The Missouri Valley Conference Volleyball Championship will get underway when No. 3 Southern Illinois takes on No. 6 Bradley in the tournament opener on Thursday, Nov. 28, at 5:00 p.m., followed by No. 4 Missouri State vs. No. 5 Illinois State at 7:30 p.m. The game-one winner between SIU/BU will take on No. 2 UNI on Friday evening at 5:00 p.m. in the first semifinal, while the MSU/ILS winner will face host and No. 1 Wichita State in the second semifinal at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
- Both opening round and semifinal matches are available live online at ESPN3.com, while the championship contest on Saturday will be televised live on Fox Sports Midwest at 4:37 p.m. - Since 1982, only four current league members have ever won the MVC Tournament title. In 31 seasons of Valley volleyball, UNI has claimed over half of all tourney titles, an amazing 16 tournament championships (.516), while Illinois State has captured nine (.290). The only two other teams to ever win the league tournament are Missouri State (four, .129) and Wichita State (one, .032).
- The MVC has earned 21 NCAA Tournament bids in the past seven seasons. Notably, every team to reach the MVC Tournament final has advanced to the NCAA Tournament in that time span.
- Each of the last five MVC Tournament matches to go five sets have been won by the lower (worse)-seeded team. The last time a higher-seeded team won a five-set match at the MVC Tournament was the 2004 championship match.