Tournament MVP Jen Berwanger
Sept. 11, 2010
By Dana Ingraham
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Southern Illinois was crowned champion of the Saluki Invitational presented by the Hampton Inn for the fourth consecutive year, defeating Southeast Missouri State, 3-1 (25-18, 23-25, 25-13, 25-19) and South Florida, 3-0 (25-15, 25-12, 25-16) Saturday to take the title.
During the morning session, SIU (8-1) battled against a scrappy SEMO squad, dropping its first set in five matches but rebounding in fine form. Berwanger's play was unquestionably deserving of her MVP status, tallying 19 kills with just three errors in 46 attempts, paired with a match-high 25 digs.
After snatching up the first set with only a few late hiccups, SIU fell victim to SEMO's tenacity in set two as the Redhawks capitalized on a 21-21 tie to come away with the win. Southern would make its adjustments, tightening up its offense and defense to seal its first four-set victory of the season.
The Salukis were clicking in all aspects of the game against USF, putting together its seventh shutout of the season. Berwanger was one dig short of a double-double with 11 kills and nine digs. Jasmine Conner hit .600 with seven kills and Mayes hit .455 with six.
"I liked the way we finished the day, especially the way that we can turn on the defensive intensity," head coach Brenda Winkeler said. "Watching the battles in the matches prior to ours, I wanted to see us go out and play defense, and that is what I'm most pleased about."
Southern looked like a team with a championship on its mind, only trailing once the entire match, at the very beginning of the third set. The Salukis out-hit the Bulls, .341 to -.053, nearly doubling USF's total kills.
"We had a lot of key digs when they started trying to force in the short shot," Winkeler said. "There are other things we made happen, but we defended and blocked extremely well."
Southern Illinois will have a few days rest before hosting UT-Martin at 6 p.m. Tuesday, its last non-conference matchup before opening Missouri Valley Conference play next weekend.
"We have a nice long homestand here, and that's good - we have the Valley on our mind but first we have UT-Martin, another OVC team that will be scrappy, so we are ready to handle that as well," said Winkeler.
Next weekend SIU dives into Valley play hosting Creighton on Friday and Drake on Saturday.
"Those are both key matches right off the bat," Winkeler notes. "You have to be able to win at home in the Valley so it is going to be very important for us to build on our non-conference performances and get off to a good start."