McDonald recorded 24 kills while hitting .310 for the match with successful attacks out of the front row and the back row. Ellis also shattered her career best with 18 kills and a .459 hitting percentage.
"Our key tonight was to stay balanced," said SIUE Head Coach Kendall Paulus. "One was to establish the middle early and then be balanced."
SIUE, 3-12 overall and 2-1 in the Ohio Valley Conference, hit .240 as a team while UT Martin fell to 7-9 overall and 1-2 in the OVC after hitting .138 as a team.
"Our hitting percentage stayed consistent so we were excited about that," added Paulus.
Four players finished the match with double-digit digs led by 21 from McDonald, who had a double-double even after two sets. Ellen LeMasters stepped up for 16 digs. Libero Jordyn Klein had 16, and Grace Hurst finished with 13.
After dropping a back-and-forth set one, the Cougars evened up the match in set two with a crucial 32-20 set win. There were seven lead changes and 22 tie scores as McDonald and Ellis each had eight SIUE kills in the set.
"The second set we got into a rhythm," said Paulus. "We were able to breathe a bit and focus on defense."
"We had a lot of long rallies," said Paulus. "They had to think about Kiana and Gabby. They helped open up the floor for everybody."
The Cougars return to the Vadalabene Center Saturday for a 2 p.m. contest against Southeast Missouri. SIUE celebrates Homecoming and Alumni Day.