Panthers trying to end skid against in-state rival SIUE

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

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After a month of away games, the Eastern volleyball team returns to Lantz Arena at 6 p.m. Wednesday for its home opener against their in-state rivals Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.

Eastern will go into this match with an overall record of 6-9, while SIUE is currently 8-9 this season. Both teams are coming off identical 0-2 starts to their Ohio Valley Conference season, following road losses to Tennessee Tech and Jacksonville State.

The Cougars are led by middle backer Kristen Torre, who totaled 48 kills in two days of play last weekend, including a career-high and the school’s Division I record, 29, in a five-set loss to the Gamecocks. She also recorded nineteen kills in their five-set loss to Tennessee Tech.

Eastern head coach Kate Price said her team needs to identify where Torre is at all times and to try to neutralize her.

“Torre is a key kid for them and has been a leading scorer for much of the season,” Price said. “We cannot focus on stopping a key kid. She’s going to score, but we need to neutralize her and always identify where she is and work to have a double block in front of her.”

Freshman Ashley Witt has also been performing well for the Cougars, tying Torre as the team’s leading scorer against Tennessee Tech. That was also a career high for the outside hitter from Lincoln, Neb.

Hitters Allie Hueston and Chelsea Lee will be a few of the Panthers that’ll try to neutralize that duo at the net.

Both led the Panthers in blocks last weekend, with Hueston tabbing six against Jacksonville State.

Teammate Abby Saalfrank’s three kills against Tennessee Tech, also tied those two for the team lead.

Last weekend the Panthers lost to Tennessee Tech in four sets and to Jacksonville State in five sets, despite taking two straight from the Gamecocks. Lee paced the Panthers offensive attack with 14 kills against Tennessee Tech and 20 against Jacksonville State.

Setter Marah Bradbury dished out 93 total assists, and libero Stephanie Wallace tallied 48 assists over the weekend for the Panthers.

This will be the first of four home games for the Panthers. The Panthers finished undefeated at home last season, and hope to continue that this fall.

“We are excited to finally be at home, and hopefully we can give the fans a reason to want to come back,” Price said.

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