The Cougars were swept by Jacksonville State University in the first round of the Ohio Valley Conference championship tournament on Nov. 15.
SIUE finished their season with a record of 9-20. They were ranked fifth going into the tournament. Head Coach Kendall Paulus was happy with the way they handled themselves against the fourth seed, JSU.
“The game was very competitive and we came in with a good mentality. We stayed in the game for all three sets; the third set was very close. We came out strong in the third and led it all the way until the end. We made JSU earn every point,” Paulus said.
Two Cougars ended the season with honors. Redshirt freshman middle blocker Hope Everett was awarded OVC Freshman of the Year. Everett finished her first season with 206 kills and 255 points in 26 matches. Sophomore outside hitter Rachel McDonald was awarded with first-team All-Conference Honors.
SIUE looks to build upon their finish for next year. Only one player is graduating this semester, redshirt junior setter Sami Knight.
“We had a lot of freshmen that received a good amount of playtime. We are only losing one, Sami Knight: she redshirted her junior year and was one who would leave everything out there. Sami will be hard to replace but we are extremely proud of her and how far she has come,” Paulus said.
The Cougars look to work on improving individual skill in the offseason.
“Against JSU our defense was set up for blocks but our sets were a little off and our hits would go right to the opponents. We need to work on our sets and our hits and learning where the other team is,” McDonald said.
Learning how to play against teams that have a different pace of play will also be on their minds, as well as play calling.
“JSU play a fast and wide offense that we have not really seen all season, and our defense was a little off in the beginning. As for our offense, we just need our coaches to allow diversity in play calls. We were not given much leeway in calling new plays once we were on the court. We also started to learn new plays right before the tournament which I don’t think was the best plan,” Knight said.
As a whole, the team will continue to bond and work together on plays and skill work.
“We had a growing trust throughout the season and will continue to grow into next year. We lose an influential player who has taught us a lot,” McDonald said.