SIU has played four tough opponents and lost four straight times — not exactly what longtime Saluki volleyball fans and SIU’s new coach wanted.
But Tuesday’s loss to a good, but not dominating Arkansas State team at the SIU Arena probably could have been predicted. SIU lost the match 3-1.
The loss to the Redwolves came after losing three matches this past weekend in a tournament. Losses to Western Kentucky, Northern Arizona and Miami-Ohio came against three teams coming off NCAA appearances.
Once a team is in a losing state-of-mind, it’s hard to get up even for your home opener. That’s what happened to the Dawgs as they lost a close one to the Redwolves (25-20) in the first set.
Things looked rosy in that set when SIU tied up things 20-20. The more veteran Redwolves’ team responded to the challenge with a 5-1 run to win it 25-20.
It looks like the Dawgs are going to have to learn how to finish off sets, which is a matter of competitive psychology rather than talent. Except, of course, when you have Sunbelt preseason player of the year Carlisa May on your team, as ASU does.
“I really would have liked to see us play better after we got 20 points (25 usually is a win for a team),” said head volleyball coach Kari Thompson. “But Carlisa May (23 kills) is a good player for ASU.”
Newcomer Maggie Nedoma was matched up with May during several sets, which Thompson called “an eye opener” for the true freshman. But Thompson said she was pleased Nedoma eventually figured out the star May after making a few adjustments.
In fact, there is some good news out of the loss that involves Nedoma. She led the Dawgs in kills with 14.
But that’s the bad news too. SIU needs upperclassmen to lead the way or it’s going to be a long season.
That’s not to say that some older SIU players didn’t contribute.
Kolby Meeks had 14 kills and Andrea Estrada had 11 to keep most of the sets close. Except for the third set blowout (25-13 win for ASU), all three losses were within five points and all had SIU ahead at some point.
In fact, in the fourth and deciding set, SIU broke a 9-9 tie to zoom ahead 15-10. However, ASU scored 15 of the last 22 points to nip the Pups 25-22 and take the match.
Now it’s up to SIU players and coaches to regroup for an away match with Murray State. The Racers are 2-1, but have yet to play the high level of competition SIU has in the last week.