Volleyball tops Bradley in MVC quarterfinal, advances to Friday semi-final

    No. 3 Southern Illinois will play No. 2 Northern Iowa tomorrow at 5 p.m. in the semi-final match.

    No. 3 Southern Illinois will play No. 2 Northern Iowa tomorrow at 5 p.m. in the semi-final match.
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    Nov. 28, 2013

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    WICHITA, Kan.-- The Southern Illinois University volleyball team defeated Bradley in four sets on Thursday in the quarterfinal of the Missouri Valley Conference Volleyball Championship.

    This win marks the first MVC tournament win for the Salukis since 2002.

    "Our passing core was stayed really consistent tonight," said SIU head coach Justin Ingram. "They did a fantastic job of keeping us on the net and giving us opportunity on serve reception."

    With the win, Ingram recorded his 100th career win and 40th win as Saluki head coach.

    Jessica Whitehead led the Saluki offense recording 25 kills on 49 swings for an impressive .347 hitting clip. Elly Braaten knocked in 10 kills and Meg Viggars recorded 10 kills and 10 digs.

    The Saluki backcourt was efficient as Ales Rivera recorded a team-high 17 digs with Katie Baki tallied 16 and Leah Edgerton recorded eight. MVC Freshman of the Year Hannah Kaminsky dished out 41 assists and 12 digs.

    The Braves entered the first set energized challenging the Salukis (19-12) at the net. BU (13-15) recorded two early blocks and took a 7-3 lead, forcing Southern Illinois to call a timeout. Taylor Pippen punched in a kill to try and swing the momentum but Bradley was able to compile a 5-0 run to take a 14-7 lead. The Salukis answered going on a 4-0 run to trail by three. SIU found its rhythm  with the help of Jessica Whitehead and Meg Viggars who combined for 12 kills in the first set. SIU rallied back tying the game up at 21. The Salukis were able to hold off Bradley for a 26-24 set one win.

    "I thought we started out flat," Ingram said. "Jessica (Whitehead) needed to be efficient and it took her until the second set to start doing that."

    The script reversed in the second set. Both teams traded points when the score tied at five before Southern scored three consecutive points resulting in a Bradley timeout. The Salukis went up 12-7 when the Braves started chipping away at the lead. Southern was able to distance themselves once again holding a lead at 19-14. BU showed resiliency battling back to come within two at 20-18. Southern held a lead at 24-20 lead when Bradley complied an impressive 5-0 run to lead 25-24. The in-state rivals began swapping points until Bradley was able to pull away with a 28-26 win to tie the match.

    In a fiercely competitive third set, the score was tied 16 times with six lead changes until a tie at 20. Southern Illinois scored four consecutive points to take a 23-20 lead when Bradley called a timeout. The Braves returned scoring three of the next four points to trail the Salukis at 24-23. Jessica Whitehead punched in a final kill to give SIU a 25-23 third set win.

    The fourth set belonged to the Salukis as Southern took a lead at 13-9 and never looked back. SIU had its best set offensively in the fourth recording a match-high hitting efficiency of .306 to silence the Braves and take the set convincingly, 25-15.

    "Jessica Whitehead really pulled it out for us today but we really need more distribution, we need different people to kill balls at key points for us."

    No. 3 Southern Illinois will play No. 2 Northern Iowa tomorrow at 5 p.m. in the semi-final match. The match can be viewed on ESPN3.com.

    "We are enjoying this opportunity to go and play another," said Ingram. "Our fate is in our own hands but we are going to enjoy the experience and do the best job that we can."