Panthers finish second at Western Illinois University

BLake Nash, Staff\

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Eastern volleyball player Abby Saalfrank had another double-double performance at the Western Illinois Leatherneck Invitational. The junior outside hitter entered the weekend with two kill-dig double doubles, following the Panthers’ tournament at Ball State on Aug 31. This weekend was even better for the Hoagland, Ind., native.

On Friday she recorded a career-high 25 kills and 15 digs for her third double-double, as the Panthers defeated host Western in five sets. Fellow junior Marah Bradbury also secured her own double-double, with 49 assists and 18 digs, as well as eight kills.

The rematch between the two in-state rivals was a back and forth, see-saw affair, which featured 28 ties, and 16 lead changes, until the Panthers won the deciding set by a score of 15-9. Similar to their Aug. 30 match against Northern Colorado, the Panthers got off to a 2-0 start with scores of 25-17 and 25-21 in the first two sets.

The Leathernecks then stormed back to tie the match, following victories of 29-27 and 25-18.

Freshman Allie Hueston tallied seven blocks, while Stephanie Wallace and Dakota Springer led the back row defense with 20 and 25 digs, respectively, for Eastern.

Saalfrank’s continued to shine Saturday, when she picked up a kill-dig double-double in both matches. In the first match against Saint Louis she tallied 13 kills and 10 digs, as the Panthers fell to the Billikens in four sets. Outside hitters Chelsea Lee and Maria Brown posted 12 kills apiece, but that was not enough to stop the Billikens who eventually won the tournament.

Eastern defeated Texas-El Paso in the final match in four sets, as Saalfrank posted her latest kill-dig double-double, adding 22 kills and 12 digs to her weekend. She also chipped in with 22 put-downs and 12 put-ups. Lee recorded 13 kills, while Wallace led all players with 25 digs. Defense was solid once again with seniors Kelsey Brooke and Dakota Springer adding 14 and 16 put-ups, respectively.

The Panthers finished second overall, with Saalfrank and Hueston being named to the all-tournament team.

In Friday’s tournament the Panthers will face North Dakota, Iowa, and South Dakota State in Brookings, S.D.

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