Volleyball sweeps Nicholls State to open Saluki Invitational

    Senior Rachael Brown recorded 23 assists Friday night.

    Senior Rachael Brown recorded 23 assists Friday night.
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    By Robin Thuringer

    CARBONDALE, Ill.-- The Southern Illinois University volleyball team opened the Saluki Invitational with a sweep over Nicholls State Friday night in front of a raucous crowd at the SIU Arena.

    "What an unbelievable atmosphere tonight," said SIU head coach Justin Ingram. "The fans were extremely supportive and I was really impressed with the all support there was tonight."

    The Salukis entered the match with visible confidence showing offensive power and quickness. SIU jumped out early in the first set scoring five unanswered points on kills by Elly Braaten and Laura Thole. Southern continued to dominate NSU offensively outhitting the Colonels .000 to .444 to take the set 25-14.

    Nicholls State tried to battle back in the opening of the second set responding to Southern's attack but couldn't gain momentum. SIU started accumulating points in bunches to pull away from NSU.

    Southern had two impressive 5-0 runs in the middle of the set to go on to end in the same fashion, closing out the second set on a 6-0 run to win the set 25-16.

    "Right from the beginning we were extremely excited for our first home match but it took a little bit to settle in and get back into our rhythm," said Ingram.

    The Salukis secured their lead early in the third set holding the Colonels on multiple point runs. Laura Thole and Bailey Yeager had command of their serves setting up SIU to finish out the set allowing Nicholls State only one lead change to win by a 13-point spread.

    "Our serving continually puts pressure on the other team so there is no time off for the opposing team and being able to sustain that type of aggressive pressure offensively has been what has been working for us."

    The Saluki seniors showcased their talents in the sweep of NSU. Reigning MVC Scholar-Athlete of the week Alysia Mayes knocked in 15 kills for SIU with a .500 hitting clip. Mayes also recorded six block assists and two service aces in the match.

    Senior Laura Thole contributed 14 kills, two service aces, two block assists, and six digs to help the Saluki effort. Rachael Brown recorded 23 assists while Bailey Yeager led in the backcourt with 18 digs.

    The Saluki Invitational continues Saturday with the following matches:

    Nicholls State vs. UT Martin, 10 a.m.

    Southern Illinois vs. UALR, 12 p.m.

    Nicholls State vs. UALR, 5 p.m.

    Southern Illinois vs. UT Martin, 7 p.m.