EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. - SIUE volleyball averted six match points, including three in the final set, and went on to a thrilling five-set victory over Austin Peay at the Vadalabene Center.
The Cougars came back from three match points in the third set after dropping the first two sets. SIUE pulled even with Austin Peay in the Ohio Valley Conference standings with the 19-25, 22-25, 29-27, 25-16, 16-14 triumph.
SIUE won the final five points as Kelsey Augustine served out the match. Down 14-11, the Cougars picked up kills from Julia Whitfield, Brianne Graunke, and Jessica Hemann to tie the score. After an Austin Peay hitting error, Hemann electrified the crowd at the Vadalabene Center with a hard spike on SIUE's first and only match point of the contest.
SIUE Head Coach Leah Johnson praised her team for the comeback. The Cougars now stand at 9-15 overall and 4-8 in the OVC. Despite dropping the first two sets, the Cougars stayed focused. "I thought we were swinging fast and swinging aggressive," she said.
SIUE setter Sammi Minton turned in the top performance of her collegiate career as the Cougar junior boasted 61 assists. She added three kills and 12 digs.
"Sammi had a great match. She executed exceptionally well, and I was very pleased with her choices. I'm thrilled with her performance overall," said Johnson.
Austin Peay, which fell to 6-17 overall and 4-8 in the OVC, took advantage of SIUE attack errors in the first two sets while minimizing their own. The Governors made just five attack errors in the first two sets and were boosted by outside hitter Nikki Doyle's 19 kills.
After the break between the second and third set, the Cougars looked to be headed to a three-set night but didn't give up.
"Tonight we were strong and it was point-for-point the whole time," Johnson said. Graunke stepped up for the Cougars in the third set with five of her 15 kills. She joined Hemann for the team lead in kills.
SIUE dominated the fourth set by winning the first five points behind the serve of Emma Anderson. The Cougars would take a 10-2 lead and carry the momentum into the fifth set.
Johnson credited a balanced defensive attack that pushed Austin Peay to the limit late in the match. Chelsea Colclasure led all players with 23 digs. She was one of five SIUE defenders with double-digit digs.
"Our passing game was certainly stronger in the last three sets. We were passing the ball and serving them out of system," she added.
Johnson said she was pleased with the crowd turnout on breast cancer awareness night. "The Cougars fans are exceptional, and our team fed off that. It was a great environment to be a part of."
SIUE has little time to celebrate the victory as Tennessee State enters the Vadalabene Center for a 2 p.m. match Saturday.
"We are excited to see them again. It's going to be a good match," Johnson said.