CARBONDALE — The Southern Illinois University volleyball team gave league leading Missouri State a run for its money, but couldn’t get the key shot or return to keep the Bears from sweeping the Salukis, 25-17, 25-21, 25-22, in Missouri Valley Conference matchup Saturday night at Davies Gym.

“The second set was the key,” said SIU coach Kari Thompson. “We were doing some really good things, but didn’t finish. We made a couple adjustments going into the third and had the opportunities. We were in the right spot defensively and they were hitting us, but we didn’t make those plays.”

SIU (4-13, 3-3 MVC) was coming off a good stretch where the Salukis had won three of four matches, including two at home, but lost its second home match in a row after losing to Indiana State a week ago.

“We’ve played some very good teams close, but we need to get some wins against those teams to get our confidence up,” Thompson said. “We’re in conference play now and have to find a way to win.”

Andrea Estrada and Patience Brown led the Salukis with 10 and nine kills, respectively.

“Andrea had been suffering from shoulder issues, but right now it’s her hip or her groin, but we’re keeping her together by limiting her jumps and swings in practice this week,” Thompson said. “I thought she played great sticking to the game plan.”

Missouri State (13-5, 6-0 MVC) extended its winning streak to seven matches to remain tied for first with Drake (17-3, 6-0 MVC) and Northern Iowa (16-4, 6-0 MVC). 

The Salukis scored the first two points of the match on a ball-handling foul by the Bears and a kill by Maggie Nedoma. SIU still held a 3-2 lead when a kill by Ashley Ophoven started a 5-0 run. The Salukis never got closer than three points the rest of the first set before falling, 25-17.

The Bears jumped out to a 7-3 lead in the second set. SIU rallied back with the help of six unforced errors by the Bears to take a 17-15 lead. SIU maintained its two-point lead behind two kills by Brown and a slam by Abby Barrow, to pull within four points of winning the second set, 21-19.

Lynsey Wright pulled the Bears within a point before the Salukis committed three unforced errors, and All-American Lily Johnson scored to give Missouri State set point. Johnson, who was held to just one kill in the first set, put the Bears up two sets with her seventh kill of the set on a shot from the left side. Johnson led the match with 14 kills.

“They hit it right at us, and we knew if we executed them we could play with them, and we did in the second set,” Thompson said. “They have to learn they have to play defense for the whole match and not just 20 points. That’s where we have to learn to close out a set.”

Just like the second set, the Salukis fell behind 7-3 to start the third set. And just like the second, SIU rallied to pull within one point at 8-7 on kills by Barrow, Kolby Meeks and Nellie Fredriksson, but Wright stopped the rally with a kill from the middle.

The Bears went on a 5-2 run with the help of two aces to open a six-point lead, 15-9. The Salukis managed to cut the lead to two, 20-18, behind two kills each by Fredriksson and Hannah Becker and single kills by Nedoma, Brown and Estrada.

Missouri State extended the lead back to four, 23-19, but once again the Salukis rallied on back-to-back kills by Brown. A kill by Aubrey Cheffey gave the Bears set and match point, but Alsya Sutton held off Bears with her only kill of the match from left side.

With Ashley Edelen serving for the Salukis, Wright was set up on the right side and put the ball in the middle of SIU’s defense to put the stubborn Salukis away. 

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