The SIUE women’s volleyball team suffered a disappointing setback this weekend, losing the first two games of a five-game homestand.
On Friday, the Cougars (9-16 overall, 5-7 Ohio Valley Conference) lost to Southeast Missouri 3-2. On Saturday, the Cougars suffered a loss at the hands of UT Martin (9-19 overall, 3-9 OVC), giving the Cougars a three-game losing streak.
Head Coach Leah Johnson said she was proud of the fight the players showed against a tough SEMO (14-14 overall, 6-6 OVC) team, but it may have affected how they played on Saturday.
“[Friday’s] match was an emotional, mental, physical high, and I really believe we put it all on the court, but we came up short and we had nothing left in our tanks [Saturday],” Johnson said. “It was like we were trying to buy an ounce of effort to get things going for us and just couldn’t find it. I thought we lost a good game. We made a team beat us, in SEMO, in the way we played and came back and showed that fight, and we showed a great love of volleyball and then we were just so flat to start [Saturday]. We didn’t have much left.”
On Friday, the Cougars lost the first two sets 20-25 and 22-25 against SEMO. They came back to tie the match 2-2 by winning the next two sets 25-19 and 25-22.
In the fifth set, the Cougars had an 8-4 lead before switching sides. After the switch, SEMO tied the match 12-12 and eventually went on to win 19-17. Johnson said the players let their nerves get to them toward the end of the match, and it led to their defeat.
“We were in a really good place at the switch and still were after,” Johnson said. “Then they started to be more aggressive and put more pressure on us. I felt that we got a little bit tight for a couple points in a row. Then we would find our flow again, but then we would get tight again. That ebb and flow there at the end serviced SEMO before it serviced us.”
On offense, the Cougars had a season-high 77 kills, led by sophomore middle blocker Kristen Torre, who had a career-best 22 kills in the match. Also getting double-digit kills were senior middle blocker Kelsey Augustine and freshman outside hitter Alicia Streetar, both getting 15 kills, and senior outside hitter Cori Harris, who collected 13 kills.
Torre said she was able to get so many balls to hit the floor because the players around her were getting her the ball in good positions.
“I think I was seeing the ball really well and tracking it from the setter,” Torre said. “We had some great passes. That really helped.”
On defense, the Cougars had a season-best 122 digs, led by junior libero Chelsea Colclasure with 39 digs, the second highest single-game total for a Cougar player ever. The next highest dig total went to Harris, who had 25. Four other players finished the game with double-digit dig totals.
The Cougars, looking to make up for the previous night’s loss, played UT Martin on Saturday. In the first set, the Cougars got down early and could not find a way back, eventually losing the set 14-25. The Cougars fought back to tie the match in the second set, winning 25-17, before intermission.
The Cougars could not replicate the success of their second set, and went on to lose the third and fourth sets 25-21, giving UT Martin its third win of the OVC season and putting the Cougars two games below .500 in the OVC.
Johnson said her players did not seem able to get themselves excited during the game, and that led to the loss.
“We were emotionally, physically and mentally flat,” Johnson said. “It was hard to get motivated. It shouldn’t have been but, I saw it in our performance. Not in our attitude in our pregame. Not in our attitude in the locker room. Not in our attitude in scout, but in our performance.”
Torre and Augustine led the team in kills, smashing 12 and 11 respectively, and were helped by freshman setter Mallory Mangun, who had 38 of the Cougar’s 45 assists. Four players finished the game with double-digit dig totals, led by Colclasure, who had 19 digs.
Johnson said the weekend was disappointing, but the team will look to get some rest before the next games so it can be ready to take advantage of the string of home games it has.
“We need some rest,” Johnson said. “I think we were pretty banged up coming into this weekend, and we saw people fade out early because of that. We’re going to really try to rest and start off in a good place this week. Our focus will be hitting efficiency. We know we can put the ball away, but we just gave up too many points and breathed life into their game.”
The volleyball team’s next game is at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8, against Tennessee Tech in the Vadalabene Center.