Nov. 18, 2011
By Bill Ford
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Southern Illinois volleyball team kept pace with Bradley for three sets, but came unraveled in the fourth of a 19-25, 29-27, 21-25, 14-25 loss Friday night at Davies Gym.
Throughout the night, the Braves (12-15, 5-14 MVC) displayed the resiliency that has brought them from last in the Valley a few weeks ago to vying for the final open spot in next week's MVC Tournament. Each time Southern (9-17, 3-14 MVC) fell into a groove throughout the night, Bradley found an answer.
"At team that is hot like Bradley right now, coming up and vying for sixth place -- they definitely outplayed us tonight defensively," said SIU head coach Brenda Winkeler.
The opening set was a back-and-forth affair early, with the two teams trading the lead six times. The Braves finally broke the set open midway through with a 6-0 run to go up 20-15. Three points during the rally came on Saluki errors. Southern battled back within 21-18, but the Braves closed out the set on a 4-1 run to go up 1-0.
The second set also saw the scoreboard seesaw back-and-forth as the two teams traded points. Neither team scored more than three consecutive points throughout the set, although Southern made headway late to go up 22-18.
Bradley worked its way back, however, using a 4-0 run to knot the set at 24 24. Southern traded a few points with the Braves, but eventually came up with a big block by Rachael Brown and Sarah James to take the set and tie the match at 1-1.
Southern carried the momentum from the win over into the third set, scoring the first four points. Two of the points came via service aces by Elly Braaten.
Bradley eventually broke through, however, and methodically worked its way back into the match. Southern held the lead as late as 14-12 before the Braves made a 6-1 run to slingshot into the lead 18-15. Southern made a late run to pull within 22-21, but the Braves scored the final three points to slam the door.
"We had the momentum. We won a close second game and Bradley made a lot of errors. Elly had two serves roll," Winkeler said. "We just made a couple errors in a row, and teams in our conference will definitely take care of that. It's just something you can't do."
The Salukis struggled mightily to start the fourth set. Bradley scored nine unanswered points to open the set, five of which came on SIU errors.
"Bad passing in the fourth set just put us in a real hole," Winkeler said. "When someone serves us a ball, we've got to make sure we keep it on our side. Bradley did a good job of serving us short and serving us deep. They played a mind game and we did not adjust."
The Braves would push the lead as high as 13-1 before Southern awoke. The Salukis rallied back within 17-10, but the early deficit proved too great.
Laura Thole picked up her 15th double-double of the season with a team-high 14 kills and 10 digs while Alysia Mayes added 12 kills. Brown finished with 44 assists while Bailey Yeager led the defense with 14 digs.