Southern Illinois extended its win streak to eight matches with a 3-1 win over UNI in the MVC semi-final.
Nov. 29, 2013
By Robin Thuringer
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WICHITA, Kan.--The Southern Illinois volleyball team downed Northern Iowa in four sets on Friday in the semi-final round of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. The Salukis will now play in the tournament championship match on Saturday afternoon.
Southern Illinois will look to win its first MVC title in program history and an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.
"We are really excited about the performance that was out there tonight," said SIU head coach Justin Ingram. "From the beginning there was a sense of belief that we were going to go out there and do some good things."
The win pushed the Salukis to an overall season record of 20-12, which marks the first back-to-back 20-win season for the program since 1984 and 1985.
Southern Illinois wasted no time controlling the first set posting a .355 hitting efficiency and holding the No. 3 Panthers (23-8) to just a .114 clip. Elly Braaten paced the Salukis recording six kills on eight swings. Southern held a comfortable 20-14 lead when UNI attempted a late rally with a 3-0 run to force SIU to call a timeout. Emily Less punched in a kill out of the break followed by kills from Jessica Whitehead and Meg Viggars. UNI threatened the Salukis at set-point but Viggars punched in a powerhouse kill from the middle. SIU took the set 25-21.
The opening of second set was a back-and-forth trading of points between Southern and the Panthers. SIU was able to break away with a 15-10 lead before Northern Iowa was able to swing a 5-0 run to tie the set at 15. The tie extended to 17 until the Salukis were able to shutdown the Panther offense only allowing them to score just three more points. Jessica Whitehead heated up at the end of the set, guiding her team to a 25-20 second set win, killing five of the last six points.
In the do or die third set for the Panthers, UNI came back from the break ready to challenge the Salukis. The Panthers were able to slow down the SIU offensive system allowing Southern only 10 kills. The set saw four early ties before Northern Iowa cracked open a lead that the Salukis could not catch. UNI took the third set 25-18.
"Our ability to sideout was low in the third set and we struggled with errors and serve recieve," said Ingram.
The Panthers were competitive in the opening of the fourth set. UNI attempted to force a fifth set but the Salukis were able to score points in bunches at the mid-way point to create a comfortable lead. Southern held onto to the advantage for the duration of the fourth set to win the set and match, 25-21.
The Saluki back row was also consistent with four players recording double-digit digs. Alex Rivera tallied 23. Meg Viggars recorded her seventh double-double with 10 kills and 17 digs. Hannah Kaminsky and Katie Baki added 11 apiece.
"We needed that distribution tonight to be able to get past Northern Iowa's block," said Ingram. "Our back row really kept us in system and were able to set up our attackers."
The Salukis will play Wichita State in the championship match on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. The match will be televised live on Fox Sports Midwest and its affiliates.
"We are really proud of the girls and we are really excited to get the chance to play again."
Southern last made an appearance in the MVC title match in 2002.