CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - The duo of Julia Whitfield and Brooke Smith both posted career bests in kills Tuesday as SIUE volleyball dropped Southeast Missouri 29-27, 21-25, 25-22, 26-24 at Houck Fieldhouse.
The Cougars, 13-17 overall and 8-11 in the Ohio Valley Conference, won their third straight match and look to end the season on a high note Friday when they entertain UT Martin for a 7 p.m. match on Senior Night at the Vadalabene Center.
SIUE Head Coach Leah Johnson said she was happy with the total team effort. She said the team played to "full capacity" and wanted to send a message.
"They (the team) wanted to send a message that they can compete in this conference from top to bottom," said Johnson. "We came out with such a fire and intensity tonight."
The Redhawks entered the match in a tie for third place in the OVC. With the win, SIUE swept the series for the season against the Redhawks, which fell to 12-17 overall and 10-8 in OVC play. The Cougars won in three sets earlier this season at the Vadalabene Center.
The outside hitters of Whitfield and Smith led all players with 25 and 18 kills, respectively. As a team, SIUE finished with a season-high 75 kills. Junior setter Sammi Minton also bested her career high in assists with 63.
"We've waited for them to unload. Tonight they were scoring quickly," Johnson said of her starting outside hitters.
Most matches this season, according to Johnson, the Cougars have had to rely on kills from the right side or the middle. "Tonight we had any option we wanted."
Johnson said Whitfield and Smith received many more swings than normal, but since the duo was terminating it just seemed to be the right thing to do.
"Because they were terminating so well, that was good decision-making for Sammi," said Johnson.
Both teams finished with strong hitting percentages. SIUE hit .259 for the match while the Redhawks hit .266. SEMO was led by 17 kills from Colleen Yarber.
SIUE's depth was evident as middle hitter Kelsey Augustine finished with nine kills and five blocks. Minton also was a key on offense with six kills on seven attacks.
Chelsea Colclasure led the Cougar defense with 27 digs, and Whitfield recorded a double-double with 20 digs to go along with her career-best night in kills.
Johnson said the Cougars wanted senior Jessica Hemann to have a successful final road trip. "The team really rallied behind that."
Johnson also thanked a special guest on the road trip. SIUE Director of Athletics Dr. Brad Hewitt made the trip with the team. "That was quite a gesture on his part to travel with us. The team really valued that."