EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – SIUE ran its season record to 4-0 with a four-set victory over Wright State in the opening match at the Cougar Classic Presented by DoubleTree Hotels.
This is SIUE's fastest start during the Division I era and equals the start of the 2007 team, the program's last non-Division I squad.
SIUE defeated Wright State 25-20, 25-15, 23-25, 25-13 in front of a crowd of 314 at the Vadalabene Center. The Cougars have two matches left in the tournament with a 12:30 p.m. contest against Tulsa followed by a 7 p.m. match against UMKC.
"We talked before the match about having some pregame jitters with a home opener," said Acting Head Coach Kendall Paulus. "We talked about being OK with that and embracing it."
The Cougars came out strong in the opening two sets, hitting better than .300. Set three was a bit of a roadblock, however, after committing 10 attack errors, more than in the other three sets combined. The Cougars made it close despite falling behind 13-4 in the set.
Six different players finished the match with seven or more kills. Ashley Witt led the team with 11 kills and a .370 hitting percentage.
"We were really able to be balanced," noted Paulus.
SIUE's defense collected 83 digs with another balanced effort. Setter Mallory Nicholson led the squad with 17. Shashack (15), Klein (14), Scott (13) and Samantha Knight (11) also finished in double digits.
For the match, SIUE hit .233 as a team while holding Wright State to .097 team hitting. Katie Klusman led Wright State with 14 kills.
The Cougars were able to maneuver through opening night jitters.
"I think it was just working through a different lineup, different players, running some different sets and just finding what works for us," said Knight.