NORMAL — The Illinois State volleyball team couldn’t go wrong going to the right side Friday night.
The Redbirds balanced out their usual left-side power with some sorties from the right to avenge an earlier loss to Southern Illinois, 27-25, 25-20, 25-17, in front of 1,008 at Redbird Arena.
“They had a better right-side attack from No. 25 this time,” said SIU coach Brenda Winkeler, who watched ISU freshman LeighAnn Hranka notch eight kills on .471 hitting.
As hot as Hranka was, she wasn’t even the most efficient front-row player as middle hitter Tabitha Visk hit .556 en route to 10 kills, tying Shannon McGlaughlin’s team-high total.
Neither Hranka nor Visk had a hitting error as ISU hit .305 as a team, topping .300 for just the fourth time this year. The Redbirds sizzled at .441 the third set.
“Our hitters just did a really good job of putting the ball away,” said setter Kristin Stauter, who had 37 assists after missing a match because of a concussion.
“Our passing tonight was so good that it allowed me to run whatever I wanted.”
Among the ISU passers were Jenny Menendez (15 digs), Mallory Leggett (10) and Laura Wakefield (eight).
The Redbirds hoped to slow SIU star Jennifer Berwanger, who tore them up with 23 kills in a loss at Carbondale Oct. 9. She finished with 13 as the Salukis had trouble passing ISU’s tough serves.
Despite a foot injury, Leggett had three consecutive aces in the second set to put ISU up, 6-2. Wakefield had two aces during a 4-0 run to put ISU ahead, 19-11, in the third set.
“Serving is something we have all the control over so it’s something we work on a lot in practice and it wins a lot of games for us,” Stauter said.
Friday’s win moved ISU to 16-11 overall and into sole possession of sixth place in the Missouri Valley Conference at 6-8 with four regular-season matches remaining including today’s 7:05 p.m. home date with seventh-place Evansville (16-8, 5-7). The top six teams make the Valley Tournament.
SIU (14-9, 5-8) dropped to eighth.
The Redbirds made quick starts in each set Friday, going up 5-0 in the first, 7-2 in the second and 6-2 in the third.
“Being the home team you always have to try to establish a strong presence and take ownership of your own court and I thought that we did that in every set and thank goodness we did,” said ISU coach Melissa Myers.
The Redbirds were especially grateful to have a 23-11 lead in the second set because SIU scrambled back within 24-20 before Stauter won a joust to secure set point.
“You can’t ever think the set is over before it’s over,” Myers said. “I thought we were a little too relaxed and they kind of went after it a little bit.”