In the first match this season that went into five sets, the Salukis won a hard-fought battle to extend their winning streak to nine.
The Salukis continued non-conference play in their first home game at Davies Gymnasium against the Redhawks after coming off two weekend tournament wins in a row, the most recent at the Saluki Invitational at the SIU Arena.
The team, which now leads the all-time series against SEMO 20-1, started the match with an eight-point win in the first set.
After battling back and forth, Junior Jessica Whitehead tied the set at 6-6 with her first kill of the night. She led the team with 21 kills in the match.
Freshman Taylor Pippen scored the first Saluki point with a kill in the second set.
Coach Justin Ingram said in practice Monday the team worked on sending to the back corners, a tactic SEMO used often during the match. The Redhawks burned the Salukis a few times in the back corners in the second set.
“We knew they were going to do that,” Ingram said. “We knew the setter liked those opportunities. We knew the middle liked to tip it to the corner. We knew the outside hitters like to throw it around as well.”
He said in the one day of practice it had between the weekend tournament, the team wasn’t ready for how often the Redhawks would throw the ball to the back corners.
Serving was another setback for the Salukis. In five matches, the team had 12 service errors.
“There are cardinal sins in serving, and we displayed a few of those tonight, unfortunately,” he said.
In the third set with SEMO leading 19-14, Senior Alysia Mayes had a kill that sent her back to serve the next three points with kills from Pippen and Whitehead. With three attack errors, SIU lost the third set 25-23.
The team started out strong in the fourth set with the first kill from Pippen, which sent Yeager back to serve two more points.
The team went on a six-point run early in the game with Mayes back to serve, which put the team up 12-8. The team stayed ahead until a kill from SEMO’s Julie Shives tied the game 13-13.
The game lead changed six times with 11 ties in the fourth set. At 26-25, an attack error from SEMO’s Brittney Kalinoki meant a set for the Salukis.
The teams played for set point four times in the fourth set, where Ingram said there were opportunities his team should have played that would have resulted in a larger point spread.
“It felt like we were giving it to them,” he said. “There were a lot of instances in those three or four points back and forth we should have played at a higher level.”
Thole started the team off in the fifth set with three kills in a row, keeping Yeager back at the line to serve.
After switching sides on the eighth point from SIU, Whitehead answered with a kill that put the Salukis up 9-4.
A net violation from Pippen gave the side out to SEMO, but a stuff block from Pippen and Drubant got the ball back. Another stuff block from Pippen and a kill from Whitehead put the Salukis up 12-6.
Bogdanski served the last three points with a kill from Pippen, an out of bounds hit from SEMO and a hit in the net.
The fifth set only goes to 15 points, 10 of which came from Saluki kills.
Ingram said winning in five sets meant the team had to fight for it.
“The team showed they can fight and want to have success in their attacking rhythms and hit at higher efficiencies,” he said. “They were able to make small plays that essentially at the end of the match was the difference between us winning and not winning.”
Thole had 16 kills, Mayes had 17 and Pippen contributed eight. Senior Bailey Yeager led the team with 36 digs.
The team is back in action at 7 p.m. Friday against Missouri Valley Conference matchup Indiana State in Davies Gymnasium.