Oct. 28, 2004
By Lou Antoine
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Southern Illinois can move a couple steps closer to its primary goal of reaching the 2004 MVC Tournament this weekend, when the Salukis host Creighton (14-7, 6-5 MVC) and Drake (3-17, 1-10 MVC) on Friday and Saturday at 7 and 3 p.m. respectively.
The two matches will wrap up a four-match home stand where SIU has gone 2-0 (wins over Evansville & Murray State). The 3-0 sweep over Murray State was just the second by Southern Illinois all season.
"We just have to win wherever we are and it should be easier to win at home, but this is a tough conference, and every match is tough. We can't cruise because we're at home and expect to win these matches. We're not in a position where we can do that," said Sonya Locke, SIU head coach.
"We're still on the bubble and any slip up at this point can be detrimental to our ability to get to the MVC Tournament and we need to take care of that goal. We're not quite in a must-win situation yet, but we can't afford to lose matches.
SIU (6-15, 4-6 MVC) is currently sixth in the MVC after two straight home wins and victories in three of its last five matches. The Bluejays are currently fifth, while the Bulldogs are in tenth place. Earlier this season, SIU lost to Creighton (3-0) and Drake (3-2) on the road. The win by the Bulldogs over the Salukis is their only MVC win of the season.
"We had a lot of serving errors in those two matches (12 total), and it wasn't a huge number, but the timing of the serving errors really hurt the team when we were on a roll, which kept us from scoring when we needed to. But I'm positive that will be better," added Locke.
"We have to be smart and have a minimum amount of errors, and I don't have a set number, but we have to get better at controlling the ball and when we get opportunities to kill a ball, we have to kill it."
Locke believes the teams are very even on defense, but SIU's blocking, which has been in double figures the last three matches (12, 17, 11), including a season-high 17 against Evansville, could be the key to SIU's success.
"We have the talent and the defensive capabilities to win these matches, which is a big part of the battle. Creighton has a great libero (Janeen Piller) and defensively they will be tough. If the defenses are equal than we have to pick up points by blocking," stated Locke.
"We have emphasized blocking more and want our blockers to take more responsibility for defense. That's an area we have really focused on. Blocking will be a major factor to our success, but we still also have to play good defense, receive serve well, be smart hitters, run a smart offense and serve well, so it's everything. Our players understand that, but executing is what really matters."
SIU trails Creighton 12-9 in the all-time series, with all the matches played since Locke became head coach. The Salukis lead the Drake series 23-13, including a 14-12 advantage with Locke as head coach.