The SIUE Cougars returned to First Community Arena on Friday night vs. Tennessee-Martin (UT Martin) after a five-game midseason road swing. SIUE was swept in three sets by the Skyhawks with scores of 16-25, 20-25, and 26-24.
Following the loss, SIUE falls to 11-13 overall and 6-7 in Ohio Valley Conference play. UT Martin, boasting the top record in the OVC, improves to 17-9 and 11-2.
“They’re (UT Martin) the number one team in the conference and tonight we saw why. They’re extremely versatile, run a ton of different plays, have active setters, and score from pin to pin,” said head coach Kendall Paulus. “We have to find ways to score in tomorrow’s match to be successful.”
The Skyhawks controlled the match in the first set, racing off to an 8-1 lead, and never looked back, winning the first set 25-16. UT Martin hit .353 in the opening frame compared to the Cougars’ .105.
SIUE took a 9-7 lead at the beginning of the second, but UT Martin followed up with a 10-1 run to push its lead to 17-10. The Cougars improved their attack percentage to hit .294 in the frame, but UT Martin did the same, hitting .391 to grab a 2-0 advantage.
The third frame played back and forth until the Cougars took a four-point lead at 17-13. However, UT Martin fought their way back into the match, knotting the set up at 23 late in the set after a 5-0 run. Tied at 24, the Skyhawks took the final points on a kill and block to win the match.
“We need to hit another level with our effort tomorrow if we want to get the win,” added Paulus.
Breaking down the status of the Friday series
Pacing the Cougars’ attack was Sydney Hummert who finished the match with a team-high 12 kills. Jessica Vineyard and Ainsley Ranstead also added kills, with seven and six respectively. Vineyard also led the Cougars with three blocks.
The setting duo of Caroline Waite and Alyse Drifka finished the match with a combined 31 assists. Waite dished out 17 while Drifka collected 14. On defense, Nicole Kijowski had a match-high 21 digs.
For UT Martin, Karen Scanlon led all attackers in the match with 16 kills. At the net, Mia Saenz led all blockers with five.
Cougars swept Saturday in three sets
The SIUE volleyball team fell to the visiting UT Martin Skyhawks, 0-3, on Saturday afternoon at First Community Arena. The Cougars hit just .108 in the match, compared to the Skyhawks’ .363. The set scores were: 25-19, 25-13, and 25-16.
Following the loss, SIUE drops to 11-14 on the season and 6-8 in Ohio Valley Conference. The Skyhawks, who hold the top record in the conference, improved to 18-9 and 12-2.
UT Martin came out swinging, hitting .361, and took advantage of six attack errors by the Cougars in the opening frame. Leading 5-4 early, the Skyhawks extended their lead on an 8-2 run to push their advantage to seven. The Cougars showed fight late in the set, cutting their deficit to four, but the Skyhawks would prevail to take the first set, 25-19.
The Skyhawks kept their spark early in the second, commanding an 11-3 over the Cougars. UT Martin finished the set on a 3-0 run to take the second frame, 25-13, and 2-0 advantage in the match. The Cougars gathered just eight kills on 42 total attacks in the set.
The Cougars took their first lead of the match at 2-0 in the third, but UT Martin quickly responded to tie the set at four. Knotted up at eight, the Skyhawks used a 4-0 run to regain the lead, which they held for the remainder of the set. SIUE closed the gap to one point at 13-12, but UT Martin used a 7-2 run to extend its lead over the Cougars. UT Martin would take victory in the set, 25-16 and 3-0 in the match.
Breaking down the status of the Saturday series
Leading the Cougars’ attack in the loss were Hummert and Ranstead who both finished with eight kills. Priscilla Jones also chipped in seven kills. Drifka and Waite added assists for SIUE, with 13 and 10 respectively.
At the net, Vineyard collected a team-high two blocks in the match, while Jenna Taphorn, Monica LaFleur, and Savannah Christian each added one. Kijowski paced the Cougars’ defense with 18 digs.
Coming up next
SIUE returns to action on the road in a weekend series against Southeast Missouri on Friday, Nov. 4, and Saturday, Nov. 5. First serve on Friday is set for 6:00 p.m. Both matches will be streamed on ESPN+.