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Redemption: Volleyball knocks out defending champ Missouri State

After collecting just one conference road win last season, the Braves doubled that number in the first weekend with wins at Missouri State and SIU. Photo by Kayla Johnson.

The Bradley volleyball team (12-2, 2-0 in MVC) exited last weekend’s matches against Southern Illinois and Missouri State with added confidence and a pair of road wins under their belt.

The successful weekend continued the Braves’ six-match winning streak, the second-longest winning streak in the MVC behind Valparaiso’s 10.

Friday’s match against the Salukis proved easy for Bradley. They limited Southern Illinois to just 12 and 16 points in the first two sets, capping the sweep with a 25-21 victory in the third set.

“We know that SIU has a really fast offense,” senior Erica Haslag said. “During practice throughout the week, we were focusing on setting our outsides really quick to work on defending them and serving really tough at their outsides because we would know they would struggle passing.”

Haslag and freshman Hannah Thompson combined for 21 kills, while senior Yavianliz Rosado led all players with 21 digs.

On Saturday, the Braves faced defending MVC conference champion Missouri State. A late first set kill by Haslag and a Bradley block propelled the Braves to a first set win of 25-22. After falling in the second 25-22, the Braves took back the momentum of the match in a tough third set.

Junior Kathryn Graf broke a 17-17 tie and Haslag’s onslaught of offense gave the Braves a chance to seal the deal. Thompson’s kill on the next play won the set 25-22.

In a nail-biting fourth set, a Missouri State error gave Bradley a 25-24 lead. On the next play, Bradley blocked a Bears’ attack to win the match. For the first time since 1999, Bradley defeated Missouri State on their own floor.

Halsag recorded a game-high 20 kills and said Missouri State surprised her when they did not show the same attitude they had in the past.

“They just didn’t have as much confidence or swag as they have had, and I think that we really took it from them which is cool,” Haslag said.

Head coach Carol Price-Torok said the team entered the match ready to “battle” and overcame the heavy Missouri State right side and middle hitters. Considering Missouri State defeated Bradley in last year’s MVC Tournament, Price-Torok said it was wonderful to nab a victory.

“It’s a confidence booster,” Price-Torok said. “To be in matches and [compete] and really go shows how we’re trending, how we’re working and how we’re continuing to take steps to get ourselves up to the conference.”

Haslag said the Braves’ defensive improvements contributed to the team’s success. She credited first-year assistant coach Matt Sprague for helping the team out in that department.

“[Coach Sprague] has been focusing on [blocking] so I think our defense all around, not just our backcourt defense, our front court defense, has been getting really, really good,” Haslag said.

Bradley will host Indiana State at 7 p.m. today for the homecoming game and Evansville at 7 p.m. tomorrow. Both matches will take place in the Renaissance Coliseum.

Price-Torok said the Braves will focus on serving, passing and staying organized against Evansville, who is well-known for creating havoc on the floor with their aggressive gameplay.

Haslag added the team’s attitude could drive the team to a pair of wins.

“We have more confidence than we’ve had in the past,” Haslag said. “We’ve always kind of been the underdog going into games and been a little nervous, but I think we have some swag and a little more confidence going to games.”

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