Oct. 7, 2011
By Bill Ford
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Southern Illinois volleyball team improved to .500 in Missouri Valley Conference play with a four-set win over Indiana State Friday night in Terre Haute, Ind.
The Salukis (9-6, 3-3 MVC) dropped the first set 18-25 before rebounding to sweep the next three 25-22, 25-23 and 25-13.
"We came out slow. We were having some issues with making errors," said SIU head coach Brenda Winkeler. "We ended up n the second set gaining some momentum and as the match went on we got in a rhythm."
Southern struggled to a .108 hitting percentage with seven hitting errors in the first set, never able to get into a groove against the Sycamores (9-9, 1-6 MVC). The slow start carried over into the second set as ISU jumped out to a 13-6 lead.
The Salukis picked up the pace midway through the second set, thanks largely to a slew of kills by sophomore outside hitter Jessica Whitehead, who finished with a match-high 21 kills. Whitehead helped Southern fight its way back into contention before the Salukis finished the set on a 6-0 run to tie the match at a set apiece.
SIU had to fight back from behind again to start the third set, rallying from a 10-4 deficit with seven straight points with Caitlin Schumacher serving. The rest of the set saw Southern and ISU fight back and forth before the Salukis scored five out of the last six points to close the set.
Up two sets to one, SIU dominated the fourth set for its third consecutive win.
Winkeler said a big factor in her team's turnaround from its sluggish start was blocking. The Salukis didn't have any blocks in the first set, and only two in the second before posting seven in the last two sets combined.
"We really picked it up on that end," Winkeler said. "We stayed very patient and paid off for us."
In addition to Whitehead's big night, junior middle blocker Alysia Mayes finished with 13 kills on a .379 hitting clip while junior setter Rachael Brown added 43 assists and three Salukis finished with double-digit digs. Sophomore outside Elly Braaten led Southern with 15 digs while junior libero Bailey Yeager added 14 digs and junior outside Laura Thole finished with 11 digs.
"Overall it was a really great team effort," Winkeler said. "It feels good only for tonight. We've got another big challenge against a good Illlinois State team tomorrow."
The Salukis face off against the Redbirds Saturday at 7 p.m. to finish its conference road swing.