SIU’s volleyball team swept a tournament for the second weekend in a row, this time on its home court.
The Salukis won all three matches in three sets at the SIU Arena this weekend, which ended Saturday with a win over the University of Tennessee Martin.
Friday vs. Nicholls State University 25-14, 25-16, 25-12
The team got off to a quick start which sent freshman defensive specialist Mary Bogdanski to the line six times to start the game with a five-point lead before a Nicholls State timeout.
Bogdanski, who went on a few serving runs during the match, said she has worked on her serve in practice to be more consistent and accurate with where the serve is going.
“I always think, ‘Oh I want to ace this girl,’” she said.
Coach Justin Ingram said he gives the players zones to focus on during the game. He said points in bunches has been a team focus this season.
“We need to make sure that whoever is back there can continually put pressure on people so throughout the six people serving there is no time off for the opposing team,” he said. “The minute you miss that is letting them off the hook.”
Senior outside hitter Laura Thole had 14 kills in the match and six in the first set. When she knows the set is coming to her, she said she tries to clear her head and not think about the blockers.
In the third set, the team went on a five-point run with Thole back to serve.
“If you don’t have consistent serving, then you can’t have a consistent game really because it is the initiating of the ball,” she said. “I think just keeping it on them for more than one point, two or three points is really important.”
The Salukis led in both the first and third sets, and the lead changed only once in the second set.
Senior setter Rachael Brown led the team with 23 assists, senior middle blocker Alysia Mayes led with 15 kills and senior defensive specialist Bailey Yeager led with 18 digs.
Saturday vs. University of Arkansas at Little Rock 25-23, 25-16, 25-13
Thole said she thinks a match’s first point is the most important because it sets the game’s momentum.
Freshman middle blocker Taylor Pippen threw down the first point of the set Saturday with a kill that sent Yeager back to the serve line.
The Salukis kept the lead for the rest of the set with five kills from both Thole and junior outside hitter Jessica Whitehead. Mayes went four for six in kills in the first set.
UALR burned the Salukis a few times on tips in the first and second sets. Ingram said he would rather the opposing team tip the ball than attack it.
“They are a powerful team, and what you don’t want to do is go head-to-head on attacks,” he said. “If we force them into any tip kind of situation, that means that our block is set up pretty well, hands are over the net and they are thinking if they should hit it or not.”
He said the team started to see the tips better as the match progressed.
UALR sophomore outside hitter Edina Begic had 31 kills the night before against the University of Tennessee Martin, but the Salukis held her to 15 at Saturday’s match.
“(Begic) is probably one of the best players in the Sun Belt Conference, and we slowed her down to five kills a set,” Ingram said. “We held her to what we could and contained everyone else.”
Sophomore setter Amy Drabant started for the Salukis and had 42 assists in the match. Ingram said Drabant, a transfer from Rollins College, and Brown are battling back and forth for playing time.
“Our offensive numbers are quite solid, and a lot of that is attested to Amy,” he said.
Thole led with 28 kills, Whitehead had 26 and Mayes contributed 21 during the match.
Saturday vs. University of Tennessee Martin 25-23, 25-11, 25-20
The Salukis started the last game of their tournament with a close game against the Skyhawks that saw 10 tie scores but only one lead change.
Before the game, Ingram said the Salukis would have a tough match ahead of them as the team had many talented athletes produced from a Louisville, Tenn., club team.
The team went on an eight-point run in the second set with junior outside hitter Elly Braaten serving.
Mayes had six kills from eight attempts with a .750 hitting percentage.
The Salukis will take on Southeast Missouri State at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Davies Gym.