Aug. 27, 2011
By Bill Ford
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Southern Illinois volleyball team split its final two matches in the Mississippi State Maroon Invitational Saturday in Starkville, Miss., to finish as the tournament runner-up.
The Salukis (2-1) swept Southeastern Louisiana (0-3) Saturday morning before suffering a five-set loss to UT Martin (3-0) in the afternoon championship match.
"Thole did about everything for us this weekend. She passed a lot of balls, played defense and blocked a lot of balls in the last match," Winkeler said. "Bailey was just solid all weekend."
Southern Illinois 3, Southeast Louisiana 0
The Salukis swept the Lions 25-22, 25-21, 25-16 to open the day with their second-consecutive win in the Maroon Classic.
Southern survived a back-and-forth first set before overcoming a six-point deficit to win the second set. The third set saw Southern control throughout for a convincing nine-point win over the Lions (0-2).
"I thought we saw a little more consistency this morning," said SIU head coach Brenda Winkeler. "We showed some persistence in some tight spots to get things done. We also got some middle attack involved, which is something we have been working on."
Junior middle blocker Alysia Mayes led the Salukis with 15 kills and a .480 hitting percentage against the lions while sophomore outside hitter Jessica Whitehead added 13 kills with a .333 hitting clip. Junior setter Rachael Brown posted a double-double with 37 assists and 11 digs while freshman defensive specialist Caitlin Schumacher chipped in 16 digs.
Southern jumped out to early leads in the first two sets, never relenting against a scrappy UTM squad to secure the 2-0 start. The ensuing two sets saw the Salukis serving for match point before the Skyhawks came back to win both.
The Salukis fell behind to start set three and trailed by as much as 19-11 before steadily working their way back into the set. SIU used a 10-2 run to tie the set at 21-21, eventually taking a 24-23 lead. With match point on the line, however, the Skyhawks responded with a 4-1 run to secure the set and stay alive in the match.
The fourth set saw the Salukis again come back from an early deficit. After spotting UTM a 14-6 lead, SIU came back to take the lead at 20-19. Southern eventually worked its way to another 24-23 lead before the Skyhawks pushed the set into extra points for a 30-28 win.
UTM used the momentum from two emotional set wins to power past the Salukis in the final set.
"We have to have more people step up and get involved offensively," Winkeler said. "We didn't get involved with the urgency we needed to until late in those second and third sets."Thole led SIU with a career-best 19 kills to go along with 15 digs and seven block assists for her third career double-double. Brown brought her career total to 21 double-doubles with 52 asssits and 14 digs while Yeager posted a career-best 27 digs. Also for SIU, Whitehead added 18 kills and sophomore outside hitter Emily Less chipped in 10 kills.
Overall, Winkeler said the team has some work to do before heading to New Orleans next Friday and Saturday to compete in the Allstate Sugar Bowl Collegiate Classic hosted by Tulane.
"There were definitely times we played some good volleyball," Winkeler said. "We have the pieces in place to be a good team. We just need other players to step up offensively. It's going to be a race to get back in the gym and put it all together Monday."