Volleyball Expects To Return To MVC Tournament In 2004

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    Aug. 30, 2004

    By Lou Antoine

    CARBONDALE, Ill. - There is an air of excitement in Carbondale for the 2004 volleyball season. Although the Salukis have just three upperclassmen and 12 freshman and sophomores, Southern Illinois brings plenty of experience to the floor. The Salukis return five starters and nine athletes that started matches in 2003, including middle blockers Marissa Washington (30 starts) and Carrie Shephard (29), rightside hitter Haley Hann (29), setter Holly Marita (29), libero Erica Miller (29), and outside hitters Ashley Saverine (18) and Jene' Pulliam (12). Despite a 7-23 season in 2003, SIU head coach Sonya Locke expects to field a better team, put up better numbers and finish higher than last season 3-15 Valley mark (tie for eighth in the MVC) in the Valley, due to the returning experience and depth her team will possess. The Salukis lost just one player from a team that started and/or played eight freshman and sophomores. "I think that this is the deepest team I've ever had. Due to sheer numbers we have a lot of depth at every position and we have some people that can play more than one position. That gives us a lot of flexibility," said Sonya Locke, SIU head coach. Locke expects the 2004 season to produce a different result with so much experience returning. The Salukis return athletes that compiled 97% of their assists (1312 of 1349), 82% of their aces (145 of 175), 77% of their blocks (168.5 of 217.5) and 76% of their kills (1124 of 1473) and digs (1269 of 1663). "I expect that we will be a better team than last season. The strength and experience that we gained from our spring season will make us a better team. We should put up better numbers than last year and finish better than we did in the MVC last year. We want to make the MVC Tournament, period," Locke stated. Despite the optimism by Locke and so many returning players, the Valley coaches picked SIU to finish eighth in the 2004 MVC Coaches Preseason Poll, which didn't surprise and won't deter the 14th-year head coach. "If you don't finish at the top consistently, you're not going to be chosen very high in the polls. We can't assume that the other coaches will pick us any higher if we don't play well consistently. We'll use this as motivation to get us back to the MVC Tournament (top six teams), which obviously will force us to finish higher than eighth place. We had a good year two years ago (finishing third), but dropped back down below our expectations last year," added Locke. SIU will be deep at most positions, beginning with middle blocker, where Locke says the starting jobs are up for grab. Washington, a junior, led the Salukis with a .294 hitting percentage, 94 blocks, 77 block assists and 0.87 blocks per game. She finished second with 17 solo blocks and third with 218 kills and 27 aces. Washington hit .328 in MVC matches to lead the Salukis and finish ninth in the league. Shephard, one of two seniors, led SIU with 21 solo blocks and was second with 28 aces, 90 blocks and 69 block assists. She added 186 kills (4th) and a team-high 12 blocks in a match in the other middle blocker position. Both upperclassmen will be pushed by athletic sophomore Johannah Yutzy (35 kills, 14 blocks) and redshirt freshman Katy DeWulf, who has recovered from injury and will battle for playing time. SIU will be solid at the setter position, where Locke feels either setter can start. With both setters returning from last year, led by sophomore Holly Marita, who led the team with 978 assists, 8.73 assist per game and 29 aces. Her 230 digs were second. Marita had a team-high eight double-doubles, the first triple-double (51 assists, 12 digs, 10 kills vs. Iowa) since 1992 and five matches with more than 50 assists. Her 8.73 assists per game overall and 8.09 assist per game in MVC-play both ranked eighth in the Valley standings. Fellow sophomore Monica Laird (258 assists, 22 aces, 131 digs, a double-double) shared time at setter while playing in a 6-2 offense. The Salukis are also loaded at the hitter position, led by 2003 All-Freshman Team member Haley Hann, who played rightside hitter. Hann, a sophomore, became just the second Saluki to make the all-freshman squad (Kristie Kemner in 1999) in SIU history. She was second with 253 kills and 69 block assists and third in kills per game (2.26), total blocks (74), attack percentage (.189) and blocks per game (0.66). Hann was solid all around with 111 digs, 16 aces and two double-doubles. Freshman Kristie Berwanger (Lake Zurich, Ill.), an athletic 6-1 lefty, will compete for playing time at the rightside position, and Cara Zizzo (Elk Grove Village, Ill.) will train there as well. On the opposite side, Saverine, a freshman who led SIU with a team-high 23 kills in a single match, will battle Pulliam, a fellow frosh, after sharing 30 starts at outside hitter in 2003. Saverine finished second with 2.52 digs per game, fourth in digs (209) and kills per game (2.23) and fifth in kills (185). Her seven double-doubles was third-best at SIU. Pulliam added 159 kills, 139 digs and four double-doubles. Redshirt freshman Jaime Hinsenkamp, who is an exciting and powerful player, has recovered from injury and is expected to challenge for time at both hitting positions. Senior Erica Miller returns at libero and will be assisted by sophomore Vanessa Zidek and freshman Molly McGinn at defensive specialist. Miller led SIU with 274 digs and 2.58 digs per game, setting a career-high with 19 digs in each match against Evansville. With all the returning experience and depth, two strong redshirts and three talented newcomers, the Salukis expect to be playing in the 2004 MVC Tournament in Wichita, Kan. on November 26-27.



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