Volleyball wins five-set thriller to open season

    Junior Rachael Brown posted her 19th career double-double with 41 assists and 15 digs in the win over the Bulldogs.

    Junior Rachael Brown posted her 19th career double-double with 41 assists and 15 digs in the win over the Bulldogs.
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    Aug. 26, 2011

    Final Stats

    By Bill Ford

    CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Southern Illinois volleyball team opened the season in thrilling fashion at the Mississippi State Maroon Classic Friday night, coming from behind in the fifth set to secure a 3-2 win over the host Bulldogs.

    The Salukis stretched their win streak in season openers to six straight, topping MSU 25-19, 16-26, 23-26, 25-22, 17-15 in front of a Newell-Grissom Building record crowd of 3,024.

    "I thought we had a great team effort," said SIU head coach Brenda Winkeler. "We showed a lot of guts to get back in there when it was 14-14 in the fifth set. We showed early in the season that we have some good team cohesion."

    The Salukis took an early lead in the opening set, briefly allowing the Bulldogs a 6-6 tie before controlling the rest of the set for a comfortable six-point win. SIU hit a solid .433 in the opening set before falling off in the ensuing two sets with clips of .042 and .043 respectively.

    The second set saw MSU take control early and lead by as many as 10 before settling on a nine-point win as the Salukis couldn't find any momentum. SIU jumped out to a 5-1 lead in set three, but the Bulldogs rallied with a 9-1 run midway through the set to take an 18-14 lead they wouldn't give back.

    "We came out hot, then we went down to a low point in the second and third sets," Winkeler said.

    SIU showed resiliency in the fourth, jumping out to a solid 11-5 start and holding of several strong runs by the hosts. MSU came back to tie set four at 20-20 before the Salukis closed on a 5-2 run to force a fifth set.

    The Bulldogs had the upper hand early in the deciding set, sporting an 8-4 lead at the turn. SIU wouldn't go away, however, as the Salukis never let the lead get past four.

    Junior outside hitter Laura Thole put away a pair of kills to give Southern the tying and go ahead points at 15-14 before MSU's Caitlin Rance responded to tie things up. The Bulldogs went back down one on a service error and Southern capitalized on the final rally with another kill by Thole for the winning point.



    Thole finished the night with her second career double-double at 14 kills and 13 digs while sophomore Jessica Whitehead led the team with 15 kills and Elly Braaten Added nine kills and 15 digs.

    Rachael Brown also had a double-double, the 19th of her career, with 41 assists and 15 digs. Defensive specialists Bailey Yeager (13) and Caitlin Schumacher (10) rounded out five Salukis in double-figure digs.

    "It really took a team effort tonight against an SEC team that returned everybody from last year," Winkeler said. "I was happy with our effort."

    The Salukis are back in action Saturday at 10 a.m. against Southeastern Louisiana before closing the Maroon Classic at 4:30 p.m. against UT Martin.

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