CARBONDALE — For SIU’s volleyball team, it was time to get defensive.
After Friday night’s loss to SIU Edwardsville at the Saluki Bash, first-year coach Ed Allen emphasized the need for his team to improve when it didn’t have the ball.
On Saturday, the Salukis overcame the absence of a key hitter because they upgraded their defense in the manner Allen wanted.
Holding Southeastern Louisiana to a .160 hitting percentage, including .083 in the fourth game, SIU squared its record at 3-3 with a 25-23, 25-15, 22-25, 25-22 decision at Banterra Center.
“When they started the match off, they were just ripping the hell out of it,” Allen said. “They were banging the ball off our block, challenging the block, and then we did a better job of shoring that up. I thought we touched some balls at the net and it gave us easier transition opportunities.
“I think they started to wear down a little bit and committed some hitting errors, which gave us some momentum. I thought we got better at the net, and we stopped standing and looking at balls.”
Rachel McGuire led the Salukis with her second triple-double of the season, recording 12 kills, 17 assists and a team-high 15 digs. It was just the 24th triple-double in school history.
McGuire said communication between front row and back was a reason why SIU looked more cohesive on defense.
“We watched film on Southeastern Louisiana and learned what their hitting tendencies are,” she said. “I felt like we were in a better blocking position. If a team hits .300, that’s really good. So the fact that we held them to (.160) is really good. Our middles did a really good job.”
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Hannah Becker bagged four block assists, while Savannah Sheridan added a solo block and a block assist. McGuire and Kyra Hunter each chipped in two block assists.
Hunter also came up with a big match on the right side, delivering 12 kills to help make up for the absence of injured freshman Alex Washington. For the 6-foot-0 junior, a product of the famed Hoover High program in suburban Birmingham, it was her best match as a Saluki.
A transfer from New Orleans, where she started 22 of 58 matches in two years, Hunter is still playing a bit of catch-up after undergoing hernia surgery in late June.
“I was out all of July, and coming back in August was hard for me,” she said, “but my teammates encouraged me and helped every step of the way. I think I’m getting there.”
Hunter collected five kills in the first game as SIU wiped out an early 7-2 deficit, eventually closing out the game when the Lions (2-5) mixed in a service error on set points.
The Salukis cruised through the second game and appeared ready to win in three when they assumed a 15-11 lead at the mandatory media timeout. But Southeastern Louisiana rallied to force a fourth game, getting a stuff block on set point from Baylee Laskoskie and Jodi Edo.
A fifth game looked like a real possibility when the Lions opened up an 11-7 advantage. But SIU regained the lead at 18-17 on a McGuire kill and then turned to the service line for the clincher. Libero Laura Rojas blooped a serve just over the net for the Salukis’ 13th ace of the day.
“One of the things we emphasize is serving tough,” McGuire said. “Coach doesn’t completely mind if you make a service error. We want to have a good serving presence, so that it makes it tough for them to run their offense.”
The Salukis continue their eight-game homestand at 6 p.m. Tuesday against Southeast Missouri State, then host the Saluki Invitational next weekend.