Despite a lead in the first two sets, SIUE fell 3-0 to the University of Tennessee at Martin Skyhawks during their final regular season game on Saturday.
Though SIUE never won a set, the match was still competitive. The Cougars were up by seven points before UTM came back and won the first set 25-21, and SIUE peaked at a lead of eight in the second set and won 26-24.
In contrast with the first two, the game was at a tie or near tie for almost all of the third set until UTM won 25-23.
Head coach Kendall Paulus said the loss could be attributed to UTM’s performance as well as SIUE’s phsyical strategy.
“UT Martin did a really nice job. They defended us really well,” Paulus said. “I know mentally we were giving effort; I don’t think our legs quite matched it. We talked about working smarter not harder; our vision just kind of got lost on how to make the play smarter.”
Saturday’s game was senior night to send off the team’s graduating seniors. Senior players outside hitter Dylynn Otte, setter Mallory Nicholson, outside hitter/right side Madison McKinley and middle blocker Kiana Fields were all honored with a video of their fellow players shouting them out and speaking on how much they will miss them.
Fields said the senior night was a factor in making the game unique.
“It’s a special game for everyone and family comes to support, even family that doesn’t come often,” Fields said, “I know that puts us on a really high expectation level, so that was something that we kind of managed today, and it’s very emotional for all of us.”
This loss is coming off a 3-0 against Southeast Missouri just the night before, and two more wins before that. To redshirt sophomore middle blocker Hope Everett, the loss was a learning experience.
“I think that we now see that we still have a lot to keep working on and to keep growing from. This isn’t the end, and I’m looking forward to how we can use this experience as a way to get better as a team and do better in tournament,” Everett said.
Despite the loss, the team will be heading to the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament next week. Everett said that before the tournament, they still have some things they need to work on.
“I think we can work on our composure, one, and two, just working really hard for every single point, [as well as] finishing game; I think that’s something that we’ve been working on throughout the entire season and that we can continue to get better at,” Everett said.
SIUE will be playing next at Jacksonville State University at 6 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 21 for the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament.