Panthers, Colonels resume volleyball rivalry Friday

Freshman+outside+hitter+Maria+Brown+sends+the+ball+over+the+net+during+a+match+against+Southeast+Missouri+on+Oct.+31+in+Lantz+Arena.++The+Panthers+lost+to+the+Redhawks+3-2.++The+Panthers+beat+Tennessee-Martin+on+Saturday+3-0+to+improve+to+5-7+in+the+OVC+and+11-14+overall.
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Panthers, Colonels resume volleyball rivalry Friday

Freshman outside hitter Maria Brown sends the ball over the net during a match against Southeast Missouri on Oct. 31 in Lantz Arena.  The Panthers lost to the Redhawks 3-2.  The Panthers beat Tennessee-Martin on Saturday 3-0 to improve to 5-7 in the OVC and 11-14 overall.

Freshman outside hitter Maria Brown sends the ball over the net during a match against Southeast Missouri on Oct. 31 in Lantz Arena. The Panthers lost to the Redhawks 3-2. The Panthers beat Tennessee-Martin on Saturday 3-0 to improve to 5-7 in the OVC and 11-14 overall.

Jason Howell

Freshman outside hitter Maria Brown sends the ball over the net during a match against Southeast Missouri on Oct. 31 in Lantz Arena. The Panthers lost to the Redhawks 3-2. The Panthers beat Tennessee-Martin on Saturday 3-0 to improve to 5-7 in the OVC and 11-14 overall.

Jason Howell

Jason Howell

Freshman outside hitter Maria Brown sends the ball over the net during a match against Southeast Missouri on Oct. 31 in Lantz Arena. The Panthers lost to the Redhawks 3-2. The Panthers beat Tennessee-Martin on Saturday 3-0 to improve to 5-7 in the OVC and 11-14 overall.

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

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One of the most memorable moments of an athlete’s career is senior night. A night in which current players in their last year of eligibility play their final home game in front of friends and family, and is something the Eastern volleyball team will celebrate this weekend.

The Panthers host their Ohio Valley Conference rival Eastern Kentucky at 6 p.m. Friday in Lantz Arena and the defending OVC champion Morehead State at 5 p.m. on Saturday. The Panthers currently have an 11-14 record overall and 5-7 in OVC play, while the Colonels are in second place in the conference with a 19-11 overall record, and 9-3 in OVC play.

The Colonels ended the Panthers 2013 season at the OVC tournament last year, 3-2, in the first round of the OVC tournament. Eastern outside hitter Abby Saalfrank said she has been looking forward to a rematch with the Colonels, since last season ended.

“They lost their big gun on the outside, Ashley Edmond, to graduation last year, and I’m anxious to see who they have now,” Saalfrank said. The Colonels have moved on from Edmond with Alexis Plagens, a 5-10 senior from Strongsville, Ohio, who is second in the OVC in kills with 390 total, and is averaging 3.74 per set.

Saalfrank is one of the Panther’s top kill leaders this year, totaling 316 kills and 207 digs. She has posted 10 double-doubles this season, and averages 3.16 kills and 2.07 digs per set. “I’m really looking forward to going out for some vengeance against them,” Saalfrank said.

Saturday’s match with the Morehead State Eagles will be the final home game for three Panther seniors. Those three include middle blocker Kelsey Roggemann and defensive specialists Dakota Springer and Kelsey Brooke. Brooke said that her freshman year was an intimidating experience, but that the Eastern tradition of upperclassmen taking newcomers under their wing, made it easier.

“We don’t have 30 players like most large colleges do, so we need your freshman to come in to make an impact,” Brooke said.

Brooke also said that the good seasons by two of the Panthers freshmen has been a great example of her team’s growth. “With volleyball, you’re able to grow with each other. That’s one of the coolest things I’ve taken from volleyball here,” Brooke said.

Brooke has taken outside hitter Maria Brown under her wing this season and admitted that having her on the team made her last year more enjoyable. “I try to do everything I can to see the defensive players, to let her know where to swing, and keeping her spirits high,” Brooke said. “On and off the court she’s a blast, and I think she’s someone that helped make my last year more enjoyable.”

The Eagles are the defending OVC champions, but have struggled most of the season, resulting in a 2-25 overall record with both wins coming in conference play, and during the last two weeks. They lost to No. 17 ranked Kentucky Wildcats on Monday night. Their biggest shot blocker, Hannah Sigala, is one of the top five blockers in the conference with 48 total.

Eastern’s Allie Hueston currently leads the Panthers in that category with 54 on the season, including seven in two games last week.

 

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