Redbirds Open MVC Play at Evansville, Southern Illinois
Sept. 18, 2008
NORMAL, Ill. - The Illinois State volleyball team (6-5) will open Missouri Valley Conference play this weekend, when the Redbirds head to Evansville, Ind., and Carbondale, Ill., Friday and Saturday. ISU will take on the host Purple Aces (6-7) Friday at 7 p.m. at the Carson Center, before facing off against host SIU (8-1) at Davies Gym Saturday beginning at 7 p.m.
"Our team is looking forward to getting the conference schedule started," said head coach Melissa Myers. "We had a very challenging non-conference schedule that has prepared us well for what is ahead. We are facing a tough challenge this weekend on the road as Evansville and Southern Illinois are two teams that have consistently improved over the past few years, and both have had representation in the MVC Tournament.
"We have seen stretches of very good volleyball out of our team lately and we are continuing to work on developing consistency and making effective decisions in key moments of the match, which is extremely important to have in a conference championship race. This weekend will be another opportunity for our players to continue to improve in these areas."
ISU is coming off Tuesday's four-set loss (25-18, 23-25, 23-25, 23-25) against No. 23 Illinois at Redbird Arena. Senior right side hitter M.C. Richmond set season-highs in kills (14) digs (13) and points (16.5) in the match, while sophomore middle blocker Katie Culbertson chipped in a career-high eight kills and 11.5 points to go along with five assisted blocks.
The Redbirds are 1-0 on the road this season, upending host Milwaukee on Aug. 30. All five of ISU's other matches away from Redbird Arena occurred on neutral courts. The Redbirds have 534 kills (13.02 kps) on a .200 season hitting percentage, and have scored 666 points on the season. ISU is averaging 12.24 assists per set, 15.63 digs per frame, and has totaled 77 blocks.
The Redbirds are holding their opponents to a .170 hitting percentage. Offensively, Peggy Riessen leads the Redbirds with 148 kills (3.70 kps) and 164.5 points. Senior setter Erin Lindsey is averaging 10.10 assists per set, and junior libero Kasey Mollerus has a team-high 150 digs.
Evansville comes into Friday's match with a 6-7 record, but has won six-of-its last nine matches overall. The Purple Aces dropped a five-set decision against Lipscomb Tuesday night at the Carson Center. SIU enters MVC play with an 8-1 record, its best start to a season since 1985. The Salukis are 3-0 at home this season.
The Redbirds opened Valley play on the same road swing last season, defeating SIU in four games in the season opener, before outlasting Evansville in five games one night later. It was the Redbirds' first 2-0 start to league play since the 2004 campaign.
ISU has a combined 86-6 all-time advantage against Evansville and Southern Illinois. The Redbirds' lone loss against Evansville was at the Carson Center in 2006, and ISU has rolled off 32-consecutive regular-season wins against the Salukis.
The Redbirds were 9-4 on the road last season, including a 6-4 mark in Valley road contests.