October 26, 2000
This weekend will determine the fate of the Southern Illinois University Carbondale (8-14, 1-10 in MVC) volleyball team's chances to reach the Missouri Valley Conference tournament and meet their primary goal of the season to reach the MVC Tournament. With seven MVC games left to play this season, the Salukis sit five wins behind the closest competitor for the final berth in the six team conference tournament.
Saluki head coach Sonya Locke knows this is the team's last chance and has been very open with them about the importance of these two MVC games.
"We are realistic when we talk about our chances. They know this weekend will make or break their chances and they know exactly where we stand. I don't want to hide it from them, they need to deal in the here and now versus possibilities. We're in control of our remaining matches," said Locke. "I donąt expect the team to change because they know we're down to our last chance. A team just doesn't change overnight for the better. I believe in being real and they know where they stand. I didn't tell them anything they didn't know, they know that the time is getting away from us. It's not really a topic for discussion, this is it, we don't have another chance, this weekend is it for us. We're not going to make the tournament if we don't win these two matches, it's plain and simple."
Despite opening up the weekend with Wichita State, a team the Salukis swept in Carbondale, Locke expects a stronger challenge from a much better team and is taking nothing for granted against the Shockers.
"I don't think we can hang on the experiences of past matches, we know that teams will be better the second time we play them. They won't be the same team, especially on their home court. I know they haven't won any matches but they're a good team. I expect it to be a hard fought match. It won't be a three game match like our win at Davies Gym," added Locke.
The Salukis must come up with a balanced team effort against Wichita State and SW Missouri State to have a chance at two desperately needed wins.
"Both teams are pretty balanced and they get their offense from a variety of players, so it's not stopping one or two people to get a win. You have to go with the flow of the match and whoever is playing well, you deal with. You have to put together a team effort to slow everybody down and force them to make substitutions. Both teams also have players on the bench that are as good as those on the court," Locke stated. "Passing, defense, and consistency are the areas that will cause you to lose if you break down. Other teams have proven that also. If you don't pass and play defense well, you can have all the hitting you want, but to score points you have to stop the other team and that's defense.˛
The Salukis end the five-day, three game road trip with their first match against SEC for Arkansas on Monday, a match Coach Locke expected to mean more at this time of year.
"If we were having a better season, and Arkansas was a top team in the SEC, this match was a chance for a significant win when you look at possibilities for an at- large bid to the NCAA Tournament. You have to have people like that on your schedule," said Locke. "They're close to Springfield, Missouri, and we don't have classes next week, so why not give us another opportunity to get to the tournament. At this point and time it won't make a difference, but when we scheduled we thought about the positives of playing Arkansas."
After the three road games at Wichita St., SW Missouri St., and Arkansas, the Salukis will be back in Davies Gym to host Creighton Friday, November 3, at 7 p.m., and Drake Saturday, November 4, at 7:30 p.m.