The SIUE women’s volleyball team maintained its .500 record in Ohio Valley Conference play this weekend by defeating Austin Peay, leader of the OVC West division at the time, on Friday, but losing to Murray State Sunday.
The Cougars are now 5-5 in the OVC, with an overall record of 9-14.
Senior outside hitter Cori Harris, one of the team’s leaders, said the Cougars were extremely excited to get the victory over Austin Peay, but it may have affected their play Saturday.
“I think we were at polar opposites this weekend,” Harris said. “We came off a big high on Friday, after beating Austin Peay, and then the next day we didn’t come out strong in the beginning, and ended up losing to one of the teams that we felt we should have beat.”
On Friday, SIUE faced an Austin Peay team that had beaten the Cougars 3-1 less than a week prior to this match. The Cougars, playing away from the Vadalabene Center, got their revenge by taking the match in straight sets. They won the first two sets 25-22 and 29-27, without giving Austin Peay a chance in the third set and won it 25-13. Head Coach Leah Johnson said the dominating third set was caused by the Cougars’ lack of mistakes.
“We limited our errors even more than we had been,” Johnson said. “We put a lot of pressure on them from the service line. Cori Harris had a great string of serving runs. Even if they weren’t all aces, Murray State really struggled to return her serve aggressively. We got a lot of free balls out of it. On our side of the net, we didn’t give them a point to find life again by making attack errors or mishandling the ball. We really played clean in that run.”
The middle blockers led the team on offense, with senior Kelsey Augustine and sophomore Kristen Torre, who had a .545 kill percentage, getting 13 kills apiece. Harris and junior defensive specialist Chelsea Colclasure helped the team from the service line, serving up three aces each, while freshman setter Mallory Mangun led the team in assists with 39.
Defensively, the Cougars had 57 digs in the match, and were led by Colclasure and Mangun, who had 20 digs and 10 digs, respectively.
Johnson was thrilled with the Cougars’ effort in the Austin Peay match, and was glad they were able to beat them on home territory.
“It was great to knock off the previous division leader in our league, to set them back and open that spot up,” Johnson said. “On their home court, it was really fun to get a payback win for that loss at our place. I was very pleased with the way the team opened the weekend so strong.”
On Saturday, the Cougars played Murray State, a team they had already beaten on Oct. 18, 3-1. The Cougars could not repeat that performance and lost 0-3. After a close first set finished 24-26, and Cougars lost the second set 16-25, before losing another close set 25-27 to end the match.
Johnson said the team was surprised to see how enthusiastic Murray State was, and believed that may have led to the Cougars’ downfall.
“I felt like we were dialed in on the match, but we had a hard time getting our wheels turning from the beginning, and I thought Murray came out very hungry,” Johnson said. “I think we were a bit surprised to see how eager they were to play hard. We shouldn’t have been, but I think it did happen early in the game. It was a little too late when we were trying to make our run at the end of the sets.”
On offense, Harris led the team with 13 kills and a kill percentage of .375. Colclasure led the Cougars’ defense with 17 digs in the match.
The Cougars play at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1 against Southeast Missouri at the Vadalabene Center. The match marks the team’s first of five straight home games. Harris said the team is pumped to have so many home games in a row, and expects the team to take advantage of them.
“I think they will all be pretty challenging. We are playing a lot of great teams at home, but that’s the great part about it. They are at home, and we have that advantage,” Harris said. “We should really capitalize on that, and make sure we do what we need to do. We don’t have to worry about long bus trips. We can just play relaxed with our fans cheering us on.”
The upcoming string of home games is the longest of the season for the Cougars. Harris said the team enjoys having the home crowd’s support, but added that the team has found other ways to get excited for games, home or away.
“We love our fans, but we also know that we have to be able to create that energy ourselves,” Harris said. “Those fans are gone at away games, so we’ve been working on our court energy no matter where we play. Hopefully, it will just give us that extra boost with our home fans there.”