CARBONDALE — Even by volleyball standards, the ebbs and flows of Tuesday’s match with Southeast Missouri State were remarkable.
The Salukis and Redhawks alternately dominated the match, they stood toe-to-toe in a standoff where neither team would give an inch. It came down to a fifth set, SIU’s first five-set match of the season before SIU prevailed.
The scores of the five-set roller coaster ride were 20-25, 25-22, 13-25, 25-16 and 17-15.
“We’re still trying to be consistent with everything we do,” said SIU coach Ed Allen. “I think the biggest piece is transitionally. We have to be able to execute that ball better. At one point in time in one of the sets we calculated we had 14 opportunities in transition and only scored twice.”
Fittingly, the fifth set was of the toe-to-toe variety. The points were hard-earned and came one at a time. SIU finally wrapped up the match on Rachel Maguire’s kill from the right side. The Salukis had fought off match point just a few seconds earlier when Maguire and Lindsey Paulsen blocked a SEMO spike to give the Salukis life.
“Rachel had a tough match,” Allen said. “She didn’t hit at nearly the percentage she’s capable of, but at the same time to show you the toughness, she has the game-winning kill. I think it’s important, no matter how you are performing to be able to put that aside. When it comes down to one point, it really doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past. It comes down to that moment.”
SEMO took the first set from SIU by playing backboard-style defense. Then, in the second set, the Redhawks appeared willing to make short work of the Salukis. However, SIU battled back from four and five point deficits to win 25-22.
Freshman Alex Washington, who led the Salukis with 12 kills, got the game winner.
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“Alex will have to learn how to play five sets,” Allen said. “She hasn’t had to play that long ever. And, she has probably never had the responsibility on her to the degree it is at this level because we need her when it’s time to take over.”
Despite the comeback win in the second set, the Salukis gained no momentum. SEMO dominated the third set, scoring 12 straight points at one juncture.
“Literally, the first thing I said to them when it was over was ‘There are a lot of things we don’t like about our sport, but one of the things we do like is when it’s over you get to erase all the points and you get to start again.’” Allen said. “If you’re playing basketball, you’re still down a bunch of points. They did a good job of playing that way.”
But, the momentum shifted again in the fourth set with SIU winning handily at 25-16. Again, Washington buried the winning point on a crushed shot.
That set up a tense fifth set that had the Davies Crazies on their feet. It was Allen’s first win at Davies Gym.
The Salukis came up with the win despite being without middle hitter Emma Baalman. The junior is sidelined with a back issue. Lyndsey Paulsen and Hannah Becker played in her stead. Paulsen responded with a .381 hitting percentage.
“Lyndsey’s performance has been terrific,” Allen said. “She’s a kid that started off playing pretty well for us and she gets hit in the head and has to be taken out. She had to deal with missing practice for 3-4 days. She did a brilliant job of being able to step in. She had the highest hitting percentage.”
The Salukis improve to 4-3 with the win. SIU will play IUPUI and Memphis on Friday in the Saluki Invitational.