Volleyball tops UConn 3-2 in thrilling season opener

    Senior Jessica Whitehead

    Senior Jessica Whitehead
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    Aug 30, 2013

    Box Score

    SIUSalukis.com

    FORT WAYNE, Ind.--The Southern Illinois University volleyball team officially began its 55th season of volleyball Friday afternoon at the IPFW Hyatt Place Invitational taking on Connecticut in the opening game of the tournament. Southern topped the Huskies 3-2 in a thrilling five-set contest.

    The Salukis (1-0) came out of the gate with something to prove against the former Big East team. SIU's veterans set the tone for the team as Jessica Whitehead and Elly Braaten led the offensive charge.

    The two team's shook off first-game jitters as they traded points until the Salukis took a 14-11 lead forcing UConn (0-1) to call a timeout. The Huskies returned with energy challenging SIU for the next eight points. Southern was able to silence the Connecticut offense and take the final six points to win the first set, 25-19.

    Southern hung with Connecticut in the beginning of the second set but struggled to gain ground on the Huskies late-set momentum. UConn took the second set 25-19 to even up the match at a set apiece.

    The third set was a dogfight with the score remaining tied for the duration of the match. Connecticut was able to muster up a three-point lead late in the set but the Salukis didn't relent catching the heels of UConn and knotting up the set at 22. The two teams tied it again at 25 before UConn had the final say, taking the third set 27-25.

    The Salukis went on a monster 7-0 run to open the fourth set and command a convincing lead. SIU kept up the pace and was able to put away UConn in the fourth set 25- 18 to force the match to a fifth set.

    Connecticut and Southern battled in the fifth and final set . UConn was only able to hold a momentary lead before a timely kill by Jessica Whitehead brought the game back within one point. Two service aces by Alex Rivera gave SIU a 10-9 lead. The points went back-and-forth to a tie at 14 courtesy of a kill from senior Emilly Less. The score tied again at 15 when a kill from freshman Meg Viggars pushed SIU to a one-point lead. A UConn attack error granted SIU a 17-15 fifth set victory.


     

     

    Jessica Whitehead finished the night compiling a team high 17 kills while Elly Bratten followed with 16. Taylor Pippen knocked in 14 and led the team in hitting percentage with a .357 clip. 

    Tournament play resumes tomorrow when Southern Illinois takes on IPFW at 12 p.m. C.T., followed by a 4:00 p.m. match with Duquesne.

    SIU