CARBONDALE -- The Southern Illinois University volleyball team fell to the Northern Iowa Panthers in straight sets (16-25, 19-25, 15-25) Saturday night inside Davies Gym.
The Salukis (10-8, 2-2 MVC), who had won four of their last five matches heading into Saturday's showdown with the defending MVC Champions, did little to slow down UNI's fierce attack. The Panthers (11-8, 5-0 MVC) hit a stout .319 led by Karlie Taylor, who put down a match-high 14 kills.
"I would've liked to have seen us block and handle first ball contacts better," SIU head coach Ed Allen said. "When you deal with an aggressive team like UNI you have to be able to block better than that. We were outmatched at almost every position on the floor and I think that was the difference in all three sets."
Southern led just once, which came early in the first set when SIU scored the first three points of the match. The Salukis kept within striking distance in all three sets, which included an entertaining second frame that saw SIU trim its deficit down to one on six separate occasions. But the Panthers attacked from all angles and served tough, which kept the Salukis out of system for most of the match.
SIU was led by Hannah Becker and Rachel Maguire. Becker tallied six kills while Maguire put down six kills to go along with 10 assists. Alayna Martin added four kills, 14 assists and nine digs while Savannah Sheridan chipped in five kills and three digs.
Southern's defensive efforts were piloted by Laura Rojas, who finished with a team-best 17 digs. Abi Fitzpatrickadded eight digs and an ace, which marked the fourth-straight match tin which she has tallied at least one ace.
Salukis vs. Drake
The Southern Illinois University volleyball team topped Drake, 3-1 (25-19, 25-20, 22-25, 25-18) on Friday night in Missouri Valley Conference play inside Davies Gym.
The Salukis played one of their most complete matches of the year, as they tied a season-best with 10 blocks, tallied their most aces (12) in a conference match in the 25-point, rally scoring era (since 2007) and notched their most digs (85) in a four-set match this season.
"As much as anything, I am pleased with the competitive attitude we took toward almost every facet of our play," first-year head coach Ed Allen said.
Southern set the tone in the opening frame, as it never trailed and scored four of the first five points. SIU's lead grew to 11, 21-10, on back-to-back aces by Katy Klugebefore a late run by the Bulldogs closed the gap to five (24-19). A side out kill by Emma Baalman gave Southern a 25-19 set one win.
"I thought we played the first set as well as we have played any set all season long," Allen said. "From start to finish, we had consistently for all 25 points. I was really impressed with the intensity that we played with."
Southern trailed just once in their 25-20 set two win before Drake rallied with a 25-22 win in set three to force a fourth frame. In the fourth set, the Salukis trailed by four, 13-9, but rattled off five-straight points with Alayna Martin at the service line to take back the lead back for good.
Hannah Becker had yet another career night, as the redshirt sophomore hit at a .354 clip and put down a career-high 19 kills with just two errors to go along with a career-best six digs.
"I thought it was an incredible match for Hannah," Allen said. "She was sick and missed a practice earlier this week and she went through a practice yesterday where she was less than whole. She found a way to do exactly what needed to be done, was highly aggressive and was intelligent with what she did with the ball."
Savannah Sheridan added 12 kills while Rachel Maguire notched her NCAA-leading ninth triple-double of the season with 10 kills, 18 assists and 12 digs.
Lindsey Paulsen led Southern's blockers, as she tallied eight blocks, including two solo stuffs. Maguire chipped in five blocks while Alayna Martin added three.
"Our blocking is getting better," Allen said. "We are recognizing situations and positioning ourselves better. We need to be patient with balls that are off the net so that we are not in the air and blocking balls on the way down. That was where Drake tooled us a couple of times. I think our blocking is getting better and it is certainly helping our defense a lot."
Southern had five players serve at least one ace and four with multiple aces. Katy Kluge tied her career-high with four aces and added 12 digs while Abi Fitzpatrick tied her career-best with three aces to go along with 11 digs. Emma Baalman served up a pair of aces, as did Martin, who also added four kills, 29 assists and 12 digs. Laura Rojas tallied 27 digs, one off her career-high, dished out five assists and served an ace.
The Salukis are back in action on Friday, Oct. 11 when they travel to Chicago, Ill. to take on the Loyola Ramblers. First serve is set for 6 p.m.