Eastern’s Lee, Wallace shine at Ball State

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

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It was a tale of two days for the Eastern volleyball team at Ball State during the weekend, as it played in the Ball State Active Ankle Challenge in Muncie, Ind.

After losing its opening match to Northern Colorado, Eastern bounced back to finish second in the tournament.

On Friday the Panthers dropped a tough loss to Northern Colorado in five sets, but the following day Eastern swept both of its matches with wins over host Ball State and Western Illinois. The Panthers only lost one set against the hosting Cardinals.

Friday’s matchup with Northern Colorado was the first matchup between both schools. The Panthers got off to a fast start, taking the first two sets by scores of 25-21 and 26-24. The Bears responded with a pair of wins in the next two sets, by scores of 25-17 and 25-19. Northern Colorado completed the comeback, winning the match deciding set 15-10.

Chelsea Lee

Chelsea Lee

Stephanie Wallace

Stephanie Wallace

Junior outside hitter Chelsea Lee led the Panthers in kills with 17 and blocks with three. Fellow junior Abby Saalfrank picked up her second career kill-dig duo with 14 put-downs and 16 put-ups from the Panthers right side.

All-Ohio Valley Conference setter Marah Bradbury narrowly missed a triple-double with 42 assists, 14 digs, and nine kills, while picking up her 23rd assist-dig double-double in the opening loss.

Stephanie Wallace led the backcourt defense, registering 17 digs. Team-wise, the Panthers held the advantage over the Bears in kills, (61-58) attacks, (176-154) assists, (59-54) and digs (93-85).

The Bears’ freshman Alex Kloehn led her team in blocks, with seven, while senior Andrea Spaustat anchored the Bears’ front line with 15 kills.

Saturday’s portion of the tournament saw Eastern go nearly perfect in its two wins. In their first matchup of the day the Panthers defeated Ball State 3-1, while recording 61 total kills. Bradbury once again led the team in assists with 52 of those kills. On the defensive side of the ball, Dakota Springer had 17 digs, while Wallace had 16 more digs.

Offensively, Lee totaled 11 put-downs from the outside hitter position, committing just two miscues for a .360 average. Saalfrank continued her hot start from the previous day, with a career-high 20 kills and her second career double-double with 14 digs.

Eastern also won the battle for kills, attacks, assists and digs, while the Cardinals led the service game with a 6-3 win in the aces, and 8-6 on blocks.

In Saturday afternoon’s matchup the Panthers shutout Western Illinois, beating the Leathernecks 25-18, 25-18 and 25-20 in the sweep. Newcomer Maria Brown led the Panthers’ offensive attack with 12 kills and a .357 average, while Lee and fellow freshman Josie Winner notched seven kills apiece.

Bradbury added 33 assists to her previous total of 94, along with three kills and six digs. Wallace added 15 digs, as she and Lee were named to the all-tournament team for Eastern. Freshman Allie Huston paced the Panthers defense with five stuffs, with one solo and four assisted roofs.

The Panthers finished second in the four-team field, with Ball State winning the tournament, by a .700 set winning percentage, which was a little more than 30 points higher than Eastern’s total of .667.

The Panthers will return to action starting at 7 p.m. Friday at Western Illinois in a rematch with the Leathernecks and then will have a double header Saturday against Saint Louis and Texas-El Paso.

Blake Nash can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]