Saluki Invitational MVP Alysia Mayes
By Robin Thuringer
CARBONDALE, Ill.-- The Southern Illinois University volleyball team topped the University of Arkansas-Little Rock and UT Martin Saturday at the SIU Arena to close out the Saluki Invitational undefeated.
This win marks the eighth consecutive for Southern who has not lost in 14 sets of play. The Salukis defeated all their opponents this weekend in three sets.
SIU 3, UT Martin 0
The first set of the match posed the most difficulty for Southern. UT Martin was aggressive on their attack keeping pace with Southern's quickness.
"We knew coming into this match we were going to have to handle the small opportunities at a really high level and to try to convert that into points," said SIU head coach Justin Ingram. "It took a while to get that groove and get our confidence back."
Alysia Mayes carried the team through the back-and-fourth match that saw the score tied ten times. The senior recorded six kills on eight attempts to post a .750 hitting clip. The Salukis were able to hold onto the set to win 25-23 on a game-point service ace from Laura Thole.
Southern came back to the second set with a new rhythm dismantling the Skyhawks outhitting them .338 to .122. Elly Braaten was on point with her serving making it back to the line seven consecutive times. Laura Thole and Alysia Mayescapitalized on the drive trading off kills to put away UT Martin 25-11.
"Midway through that second set we saw a momentum shift and with that there was a nice point spread created," said Ingram. "Elly Braatenplaced pressure on the team and that put us a few points ahead and that really built confidence for the team."
UT Martin tried to test the Salukis in the final set. The Skyhawks combated SIU with late kills to come within striking distance allowing SIU only a two-point lead (22-20). Alysia Mayesknocked in a kill off the assist from Rachael Brown to extend the lead. UT Martin committed two final errors to grant Southern the three-set win.
SIU 3, UALR 0
Southern Illinois and UALR battled in the first set of the match trading points. SIU defended the net never letting the Trojans take a lead. The Salukis began to pull away but UALR took a late rally to pull within one point at set point. SIU held on for a 25-23 win.
The Salukis offense shined again the in the second set. UALR broke out right away scoring four consecutive points. The Salukis responded going on a 5-0 run off the serve of Bailey Yeager. SIU controlled the rest of the set downing the Trojans 25-16.
The two teams were neck and neck in the beginning of the third set but errors inevitably doomed UALR allowing the Salukis to put away the Trojans quickly with a final of 25-13.
SIU showed versatility with three Salukis recording double-digit kills. Alysia Mayes led the Saluki attack with 13 kills on 21 attempts. Laura Thole knocked down 14 kills and junior Jessica Whitehead nabbed 12. MVC Freshman of the Week Taylor Pippenadded six on 12 attempts for an impressive hitting efficiency of .500.
Sophomore setter Amy Drabantaided the offensive attack recording 42 assists for SIU.
"This tournament was a good outing for us," said Ingram. "We feel good about our performance from start to end and are going to continue to work hard to keep it going."
The Salukis will return to Davies Gym Tuesday, Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. to continue their home stand hosting the Redhawks of Southeast Missouri State.