Salukis open MVC Tournament Thursday

    The Salukis will kick-off the 2012 MVC Tournament on Thursday facing the Redbirds of Illinois State.

    The Salukis will kick-off the 2012 MVC Tournament on Thursday facing the Redbirds of Illinois State.
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    Nov. 20, 2012

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    Tournament Central

    CARBONDALE, Ill.-- Fourth-seeded Southern Illinois is set to play in the opening match of the 2012 Missouri Valley Conference tournament against No. 5 seed Illinois State at 5 p.m. on Thursday at the Hammons Student Center on the campus of Missouri State University. The Salukis finished the regular season with the programs best record in ten years at 21-8 and 11-7 in the MVC.

    Thursday, Nov. 22   5:00 p.m.

    SIU (21-8, 11-7 MVC) vs. Illinois State (17-11, 11-7 MVC)

    Location: Springfield, Mo. Site: Hammons Student Center

    Live Stats   Live Video 

    DAWG BITES Southern Illinois closed out its regular season last weekend on the road. The Salukis split the weekend falling to Illinois State on Friday in five sets but picked up a sweep against Evansville on Saturday. This season SIU boasts a regular season overall record of 21-8 and 11-7 in the MVC. This marks Sothern's first 20-win season since the 2002 squad finished with an overall record of 23-10. With that record SIU clinched the fourth seed in the 2012 Missouri Valley Conference Championship hosted by Missouri State, Nov. 22-24.

    SIU vs. ILLINOIS STATE Southern Illinois trails their all-time series with the Redbirds 8-65. The Salukis and Illinois State met on Sep. 15. in Carbondale. Southern shut down ISU in three sets. The two teams met again less than a week ago in Normal on Nov. 16. The teams battled to five sets but the Redbirds came away with the victory. Ashley Rosch and Brooklyn Hlafka lead the Redbirds offensively. Rosch has tallied 316 kills while Hlafka has recorded 246. Jenny Mendez guards the ISU backcourt averaging 5.52 digs per set while LeighAnn Hranka is a force at the net averaging 1.25 blocks per set.

    SEE YOU IN SPRINGFIELD The Southern Illinois University volleyball team enters the 2012 MVC tournament as the No. 4 seed. The Salukis make their 14th tournament appearance in 31 seasons, and the teams first since 2009. The 2009 team entered as the No. 6 seed falling to Wichita State in the first round.

    TOURNAMENT BREAKDOWN No. 4 Southern Illinois takes on No. 5 Illinois State in the tournament opener on Thursday, Nov. 22, at 5:00 p.m., followed by No. 3 Wichita State vs. host and No. 6 Missouri State at 7:30 p.m. The game one winner between SIU/ILS will take on No. 1 Creighton on Friday evening at 5:00 p.m. in the first semifinal while the WSU/MSU winner will face No. 2 UNI in the second semifinal at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. Semifinal winners will face off for the Missouri Valley Conference automatic berth into the NCAA Volleyball Championship on Saturday, Nov. 24 at 7:07 p.m.

    20/20 VISION The Salukis topped Bradley Nov.10 in four sets to record their 20th win of the season on Senior Night. This is Southern Illinois' first 20-win season since the 2002 squad finished with an overall record of 23-10.

    SENIOR SEND-OFF Rachael Brown, Alysia Mayes, Laura Thole, and Bailey Yeager will return to the MVC tournament for the second time in their career. The four seniors entered as the No. 6 seed their freshman year. The 2012 senior class has left their mark on SIU volleyball as each senior holds a spot in the record book. Brown ranks ninth for assists in a single season, Mayes ranks second in career hitting percentage, fifth in career solo blocks and seventh in block assists, Thole ranks fifth in attempts in a season, and Yeager ranks third in career digs, and holds the single season digs record.

    VICTORY AGAINST THE JAYS Southern Illinois topped Creighton on Sep. 28 in four sets to defeat the Bluejays for the first time in ten years. Until then, Creighton held a 19-match winning streak over the Salukis dating back to 2002. SIU remains the only Missouri Valley Conference team to defeat Creighton this season. The two teams had a rematch on Oct. 27 in Omaha, when CU topped Southern in four sets.

    DIGGING IN THE RECORD BOOK Bailey Yeager has had a productive senior campaign for Southern Illinois. The Brownsburg, Ind., native broke the SIU single-season digs record on Nov. 16, recording 32 digs against Illinois State to tally 610 digs this season. Yeager now totals 1,404 career digs, which ranks third-all time in career digs in Southern Illinois history.

    KILLIN' IT The Saluki hitters have been red-hot this season. Laura Thole, Jessica Whitehead, and Alysia Mayes currently hold the top spots in kills in the Missouri Valley Conference. Thole has tallied 398, Whitehead, 389, and Mayes has compiled 372 kills this season.

    IMMEDIATE IMPACT Saluki newcomers Taylor Pippen and Amy Drabant have played major roles in Southern Illinois' success this season. Pippen is an offensive threat posting the second highest team hitting efficiency this season with a hitting clip of .286. The freshman has totaled 229 kills to average 2.14 per set. Sophomore Amy Drabant quarterbacks the Saluki offense averaging 11.41 assists per set to total an impressive 1,152 assists so far this season.

    HONORS ROLL IN The Missouri Valley Conference recognized Bailey Yeager with the league's MVC Leadership & Service Award. The award honors outstanding achievement in the classroom and in the community. Yeager was also named First Team Capital One Academic All-District Team. Alysia Mayes was named a Second-Team Academic All-District Member. Yeager boasts a 3.92 GPA in speech communication disorders while Mayes holds a 3.76 GPA in exercise science. Yeager's first-team honor advances her to the ballot for Academic All-America honors, which will be decided in late November.

    MAYES MAKES HISTORY Alysia Mayes recorded a career-high 21 kills at Murray State on Oct. 2. She also broke an SIU single-match record in the same game with 14 block assists. On Friday Oct. 5, Mayes recorded 16 kills on 19 attempts to post a career-high hitting efficiency of .842. Mayes now ranks third all-time in SIU history for a single match hitting percentage. Mayes also ranks fifth all-time in school history in career block-assists with 294. The senior middle blocker also holds a spot inside the top-ten in block solos with a career total of 94 ranking seventh all-time.

    INGRAM ERA Justin Ingram was named the seventh head coach in Saluki Volleyball history in January. Ingram brings 13 years of Division I coaching experience to Carbondale. He spent the last three years as the head coach at Arkansas State, where he led the Red Wolves to an overall record of 60-33 and was named the 2011 Sun Belt Coach of the Year.

    SALUKI VOLLEYBALL ONLINE All Saluki volleyball news, photos and statistics can be found online at Fans can also follow SIU volleyball on twitter @SIU_Volleyball or "like" Saluki volleyball on Facebook at