Panthers finish 1-2 at SDSU challenge


File Photo by Jason Howell | The Daily Eastern News Redshirt senior middle hitter Stephanie Arnold hits the ball in the direction of middle blocker Kristen Torre in a game on Oct. 1 in Lantz Arena. The Panthers beat the Southern Illinois-Edwardsville Cougars 3-1.

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

The Eastern volleyball team wrapped up a tough weekend at the South Dakota State Challenge, by finishing 1-2. This was the first time the Panthers did not win at least two games in their early-season tournament matches and are now 5-4 overall.

Saturday’s portion of the tournament saw the Panthers take their only win of the tournament, against the host South Dakota State. Eastern swept the Jackrabbits, winning the three-set match 27-25, 25-15, and 25-12, as Abby Saalfrank paced all players with her sixth double-double of the season for the Panthers.

The junior recorded 17 kills and 12 digs, while Saalfrank also hit .303 in the match and securing 18 total points.

Freshman Allie Hueston had another solid performance with 11 kills of her own, while adding a team-high three aces for 14 total points. Stephanie Wallace finished with 13 digs, while senior Kelsey Roggemann secured three blocks for Eastern.

For the nightcap the Panthers faced North Dakota. Chelsea Lee, who chipped in with nine kills, while Hueston added seven, led the Eastern offense. Marah Bradbury just missed an assist-dig double-double, with 30 assists and nine digs.

Wallace paced the Eastern defense with 13 digs, along with three assists on the offensive attack. This was the first match between both programs. Saalfrank and Bradbury were named to the all-tournament team following the end of the tournament.

On Friday the Panthers faced Big Ten Conference member Iowa, led by first-year head coach Bond Shymansky, who arrived after turning around the Marquette program.

The Hawkeyes wound up sweeping the Panthers in three sets, by scores of 25-23, 25-23 and 25-15. Hueston led the Panthers offensive attack with eight kills and 11 points. She also tied fellow freshman Maria Brown in blocks with a pair.

The reigning Ohio Valley Conference offensive player of the week, Saalfrank, followed with seven kills of her own, along with five digs. Bradbury served up 28 assists and tallied five kills off zero errors for a .556 attack clip. Wallace posted another solid defensive performance with 12 digs to lead the Panthers.

Eastern jumped out to an early lead in the first set, but the Hawkeyes rebounded to win the set late, and the Hawkeyes continued that momentum for the rest of the match. The Hawkeyes middle blocker, Jess Janota, led her team with 13 kills, which was five more than teammate Lauren Brobst, who had eight.

Next, the Panthers will compete in their last tournament of the regular season. The Penn State Alumni Classic will begin at 8 a.m. Friday at University Park, Pa., against East Carolina. Eastern will also play against No. 3 Penn State on at 3 p.m. Friday. The Panthers’ two Saturday matches will start at 10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. against DePaul and the University of Illinois-Chicago, respectively.

Blake Nash (@Banash) can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]