Panthers set for rematch against Leathernecks


File Photo

Senior outside hitter Reynae Hutchinson sets the ball up to senior middle blocker Amy Martin in a game on Nov. 8 at Lantz Arena. The Panthers beat the Gamecocks 3-1.

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

The Eastern volleyball team will play in its second tournament of the year, as the Panthers head to Western Illinois this on Friday.

Eastern shutout the Lethernecks on Saturday at Ball State, winning the match in three sets – 25-18, 25-18, and 25-20.

The Panthers come in with a 2-1 record with wins over the Leathernecks and Ball State and with their only loss coming against Northern Colorado. In that loss the Panthers won the first two sets only to lose the next three and the match.

Eastern head coach Kate Price said the Panthers came away with a new lesson after losing three straight sets to Northern Colorado.

“Obviously the last tournament was a big learning experience in having to close out matches with a sense of urgency, as opposed to being two up on a team, and letting them come back and take three sets from you,” she said.

The Panthers’ defense was a huge factor in the final results of the tournament,” Price said. Eastern finished runner-up in the four-team field tournament in Muncie, Ind.

Eastern juniors Abby Saalfrank and Stephanie Wallace led that effort with 39 and 48 digs, respectively. This allowed the front line led by Saalfrank and all-tournament selection Chelsea Lee to have more opportunities on the offensive side of the ball.

However, some areas need to be improved before Friday, Price said.

“In some areas we struggled which I didn’t think we were going to, and we’ve been working on them since,” Price said. “That includes connecting with setter Marah Bradbury, and getting a feel for where our strengths and weaknesses are.”

On Saturday, the Panthers will once again play in a doubleheader, with the opponents being Saint Louis and the University of Texas-El Paso.

Saint Louis has gotten off to a shaky start this season, having lost three of their first four matches to Alabama, Memphis and Northern Iowa, respectively. The only win came against Ohio Valley Conference member Southeast Missouri in a 3-0 shutout.

The Billikens’s outside hitter Nenye Okoro was voted as the Atlantic 10 conference’s player of the week, recording 2.53 kills and 2.47 digs per set. She also tabbed 10 blocks and two aces.

Eastern’s other opponents this weekend are the Miners, who have also had a slow start to the season. Last week at the Lobo Classic in Albuquerque, N.M., the Miners lost all three matches, not winning a single set.

However, Price’s philosophy of never taking a team for granted could come into place for all three matches.

“Any loss will open your eyes,” Price said. “I think the effort in the last two games against Northern Colorado was frustration about being up 2-0, and allowing a team to beat you in three straight sets, unless they’re a Top-25 team. However, we need to take care of business on our side before we can even begin to challenge what’s on our opponent’s side.”


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