Salukis split opening day at K-State Invitational

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    Freshman Meg Viggars.
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    Sep 6, 2013

    By Bill Ford

    CARBONDALE, Ill.-- The Southern Illinois volleyball team split a pair of matches Friday at the Kansas State Invitational, sweeping Siena early in the day before falling to the host Wildcats in three sets in the nightcap.

    SIU 3, Siena 0
    Box Score

    After a heartbreaking loss Tuesday night, the Salukis ended a 3-game skid by shutting down Siena 25-17, 25-18, 25-22 in the opening match of the K-State Invitational.

    Southern came out strong, outhitting Siena in the first set .350 to .043, and the Salukis never looked back. Although SIU finished the game hitting just .156, Southern took advantage of some unforced errors by the Saints and held Siena to a .011 clip with a three-set season-high of 10 blocks for the match.

    "Any time you travel there is going to be some adversity," said SIU head coach Justin Ingram. "I think adapting to the environment is something that needs to happen quickly for teams to be efficient. It took us a while to feel comfortable today. Once we settled in, our production took over."

    The Salukis complied seven, 5-0 runs in the match including a monster 8-0 run to close out the third and final set. Elly Braaten led the Saluki offense with eight kills while freshman Meg Viggars tallied 18 assists.

    Kansas State 3, SIU 0

    Box Score

    Southern's offense improved from the opening match, but the Salukis (2-4) struggled to control an overpowering Wildcats offense in a 25-13, 25-18, 25-17 loss.

    K-State (5-0) set an early tone slugging 18 kills and out-hitting SIU .654 to .286 in the opening set for a convincing 12-point win. Southern came out better in the second set, hitting for .375 with a match-high 13 kills, but that is as close as the Salukis would come the rest of the night.

    "When you match player to player, we have athletes that are more physical than Kansas State but they were more efficient," said Ingram, who was an assistant at K-State from 2001-08. "I thought they performed that better than we did. When they received, they sided out over 90 percent of the time. We needed to sustain some things longer ourselves, and that didn't happen."

    Southern's serve receive struggled against K-State, surrendering seven service aces to the hosts throughout the match, and the Wildcats finished with a solid .500 hitting percentage. Southern showed promise early in the third set with their first lead of the night, but the Salukis ultimately let the Wildcats take control midway through the set and K-State closed out the win.

    Senior Jessica Whitehead led the Saluki offense in one of her finest outings of the young season as she finished with 14 kills on a .521 hitting percentage.

    "She was really good," Ingram said of Whitehead. "She almost had five kills per set and hit for over .500. We certainly can't ask much more from her than that. Our left side attack was really good."

    SIU looks to leave Manhattan, Kan., with a winning record Saturday as the Salukis close out the invitational at 10 a.m. against regional rival Southeast Missouri State.

    "We certainly want leave here 2-1, but there is a lot of work that has to be done for us to capture a win (Saturday)," Ingram said. "SEMO runs a system with a lot of movement, and we have to do a good job of tracking that movement."