The Saluki volleyball team extended its winning streak to 11 this weekend after beating conference matchups Indiana State University and Illinois State University.
“This is what we’re supposed to be doing,” said coach Justin Ingram. “I think the girls are extremely athletic (and) extremely offensive. It’s just trying to figure out that consistency in order to eliminate the high ebbs and flows of each match.”
The team is now 2-0 in conference play, whereas it only won three of 18 Missouri Valley Conference matchups last season.
Senior Alysia Mayes said the team’s confidence is higher this season, and everyone is playing relaxed.
“Our mentality is to play our game and not get too focused on what they are doing,” she said.
Indiana State: 25-22, 26-24, 25-21
The first set started with both teams trading points until they were tied at 10 and the Salukis took control.
At 24-17, senior Rachael Brown served for set point when Indiana State’s middle blocker Shea Doran threw down a kill. Doran had two more kills as the Sycamores rallied for five points before junior Jessica Whitehead ended the set with a kill.
Whitehead led the set with four kills, but she also led with four attack errors. She said she tries not to let it bother her when she misses an attack.
“I just don’t think about it and go on to the next point,” she said.
Four of the team’s seven serve errors came in the first set, along with six hitting errors.
“(There were) too many errors all around the board,” Ingram said. “If it was blocking, attacking at the net, serves; you name it, we did it.”
Errors went down as the match progressed.
“We’re hoping to be sharper right from the beginning … It’s something we have to work toward,” Ingram said. “We’re not there yet.”
Sophomore Amy Drabant came in during the second set for Brown, who was also setting in the first set.
“When there’s so many different errors, no matter what the skill set is, you have to make a change,” Ingram said about the setter change. “Amy came in and got us in rhythm a bit in sets two and three.”
Both teams were neck and neck in the second set until an Indiana ball-handling error sent Mayes back to the line to serve. Mayes served six in a row, two of which were aces.
In that set there were 11 ties and six lead changes.
The third set started with a 4-0 run as Indiana State gave the Salukis two points from errors. SIU never lost the lead in the set.
Ingram said constant pressure from serves helped win the match.
ISU’s Doran had 19 kills in 36 attempts. Ingram said the setter would not set to Doran if ISU’s pass from a serve was off the net near the 10 foot line.
Whitehead led the team with 14 kills in the match, followed by Mayes and senior Laura Thole with 14 and 10 kills respectively.
Senior Bailey Yeager had 20 digs in the match and broke 1,000 career digs at SIU, which makes it her eighth in all-time leaders.
Illinois State: 25-21, 25-16, 25-23
The teams started the match by trading two- and three- point rallies during the entire first set.
At 6-10, each team already had five attack errors. It wasn’t until the teams were tied at 18 that SIU began to widen the gap with a three-point run with Thole back to serve.
Three blocks late in the set from Mayes, Whitehead, Drabant and Pippen helped the Salukis to a four point win.
“I thought we put some good hands up throughout the course of the match and made it easier for our back row,” Ingram said.
Mayes had two kills in the first set.
“We didn’t find her enough, didn’t get her enough balls,” Ingram said of the senior in the first set.
After an Illinois State player change, Mayes was able to get set up more often and finished the second set with eight of her team-high 15 kills.
Mayes said the team has done well with putting constant serving pressure on the opposing team.
Ingram said players started pin-pointing who the serve should go to once the match progressed.
“Our intentions were to keep it off the libero (Jenny Menendez). She passed a fair amount of balls, but she is very talented,” he said. “We wanted to make sure other people handled the ball. Once we started to target those people successfully, they were in trouble.”
There were no lead changes or ties in the second set as SIU won with a nine-point lead.
SIU allowed only two kills in the game’s first 11 points in the third set by keeping junior Elly Braaten back at the line serving for seven consecutive points.
Drabant said good passing gave her more opportunities to set up.
Yeager had another 20 digs in the match.
The Salukis will travel this weekend as they play MVC teams Missouri State and Wichita State Friday and Saturday.
“We also have high expectations,” Ingram said of next week’s competition. “We think we can compete with anyone in this league.”