Salukis kick off season at Illini Classic this weekend

    Sophomore Hannah Kaminsky, Preseason All-MVC

    Sophomore Hannah Kaminsky, Preseason All-MVC
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    Aug. 28, 2014

    Illini Classic
     Date Aug. 29, 2014 | vs. No. 20 North Carolina, 4 p.m. CT
    Aug. 30, 2014 | vs. No. 11 Illinois, 10 a.m. CT // vs. Long Beach State, 5 p.m. CT
     Location Champaign, Ill. -- Huff Hall (4,536)
     Live Stats vs. North Carolina
    vs. Illinois
    vs. Long Beach State
     Audio Saluki All-Access (vs. Illinois only)
     Video None
     Match Notes Southern Illinois | Illinois | North Carolina | Long Beach State
     2013 Season Stats Southern Illinois | Illinois | North Carolina | Long Beach State
     Social Media @SIU_Volleyball  |  Saluki Volleyball 

    The Last Meeting
    Southern Illinois0
    September 12, 2007
    Champaign, Ill.
    Volleyball blanked by Illinois, 3-0
    The Southern Illinois (8-3) volleyball team was held to -.030 hitting percentage in a three game sweep by Illinois (7-2) 30-15, 30-14, 30-14, Wednesday night in Huff Hall.

    By Elizabeth Robinson and Tyler Wooten

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Saluki Volleyball is set to start the 2014 season on the road this weekend at the Illini Classic, where Southern will go head-to-head with some of the best competition in the country.

    2013 Season Review
    The Salukis are coming off a 20-13 season where they advanced to the MVC championship match, but fell to Wichita State (20-25, 17-25, 18-25). This was the first time SIU played for the conference title since 2002. The 2013 season marked SIU's second straight 20-win season, both under the leadership of head coach Justin Ingram. The 2013 season was historic for Southern as SIU's first victory over UNI on Oct. 12 broke a 40-match slide against the Panthers that dated back to 1993. Less than one month later on Nov. 4 the Salukis posted their first win over Wichita State since 2001, ending a 23-match losing streak. SIU won its first MVC tournament game since 2002 by defeating Bradley in the first round.

    Justin Ingram Back for More
    Justin Ingram is back for his third season as SIU's head volleyball coach. The program has excelled under Ingram's leadership with a 41-22 (.651) overall mark, including a 24-12 record in the MVC. In his first season at SIU, Ingram led the Salukis to their first 20-win campaign since 2002 and a trip to the 2013 MVC championships. He followed that up last season with yet another 20-win season, the first back-to-back 20-win seasons at Southern since 1984-85, and SIU's first trip to the MVC title game in 11 years. Ingram recently agreed to a three-year contract extension through the 2017 season. The Salukis also welcome back assistant coaches Todd Nelson and Dean Torgerson.

    Strength of Underclassmen
    The team returns 12 players from last season and welcomes six freshmen. Of the 18-player squad, only three are upperclassmen - Taylor Pippen, Alex Rivera and Kat Agson. The team welcomes back six starters, plus libero. Sophomore right side Meg Viggars (227 kills, 361 digs, 83 blocks, 24 aces) will add to the offensive firepower for the Salukis, while sophomore Hannah Kaminsky (10.57 assists/set, 261 digs, 56 blocks, 31 aces) will once again distribute the ball in the SIU offense. Both Viggars and Kaminsky were members of the MVC all-freshman team last season. This year's freshmen are following suit and are anticipated to bring a lot of talent to this year's squad.

    2013 Team Accolades
    Last year, recent graduate Jessica Whitehead, senior Taylor Pippen and sophomores Hannah Kaminsky and Meg Viggars each earned MVC All-Conference honors. Kaminsky also came away with MVC Freshman of the Year, and Whitehead was named an American Volleyball Coaches Association All-Region honorable mention. The team also received its ninth-straight AVCA Team Academic Award for finishing the 2013-14 school year with a 3.402 cumulative team GPA.

    Preseason Rankings
    The Salukis were picked fifth in the MVC preseason poll after receiving 67 points from the annual poll of league coaches. The team received one first-place pick and were only one point behind No. 4-picked Missouri State. Hannah Kaminsky and Taylor Pippen were also selected as members of the 2014 MVC Preseason All-Conference Team.

    Illini Classic Competition
    SIU will take on No. 20 ranked North Carolina to kick of the 2014 season. It's been nearly 20 years since the Salukis and Tar Heels have faced each other, with their last meeting in 1997. The two teams have seen each other in competition only twice and split a 1-1 record. The Salukis will then face No. 11 ranked Illinois. SIU trails behind the Fighting Illini with a 14-12 record against the team. Their last match-up was in 2007. Saturday will be the first meeting between SIU and Long Beach State, who is receiving votes.

    Ingram on the Competition:
    "I think as you're going through North Carolina, Illinois, and finally Long Beach you're learning more about how the group is working together and learning how to create difficulties for opponents and learning how to manage point runs from happening on your own side. There's just a lot of learning that's happening. It's something that every team will go through and we're certainly no different. But we're excited to have the opportunity to play against some of the better teams in the country and we're embracing that challenge."

    Ingram on 2014 Preparation
    "The team's excited to play an opponent. I think we're at a point right now in our training cycle that we feel pretty confident about the things that have gone on in the last couple weeks within our system work. All teams in the first tournaments go through the same things and there's a lot of unknowns within competitions that you're trying to figure out as the matches go on. But we feel good about the things that we've done to help prepare us for a match. Now comes the interesting part of putting the product out there and watching the team grow together."