Eastern plays at in-state rival Edwardsville

Junior+outside+hitter+Chelsea+Lee+leaps+to+hit+the+ball+during+the+Panthers%27+3-0+win+over+Morehead+State+Thursday+in+Lantz+Arena.++Lee+had+12+kills+and+scored+13+points+during+the+game.
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Eastern plays at in-state rival Edwardsville

Junior outside hitter Chelsea Lee leaps to hit the ball during the Panthers' 3-0 win over Morehead State Thursday in Lantz Arena.  Lee had 12 kills and scored 13 points during the game.

Junior outside hitter Chelsea Lee leaps to hit the ball during the Panthers' 3-0 win over Morehead State Thursday in Lantz Arena. Lee had 12 kills and scored 13 points during the game.

Jason Howell

Junior outside hitter Chelsea Lee leaps to hit the ball during the Panthers' 3-0 win over Morehead State Thursday in Lantz Arena. Lee had 12 kills and scored 13 points during the game.

Jason Howell

Jason Howell

Junior outside hitter Chelsea Lee leaps to hit the ball during the Panthers' 3-0 win over Morehead State Thursday in Lantz Arena. Lee had 12 kills and scored 13 points during the game.

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

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Winning streaks have been the theme for the Eastern and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville volleyball teams in the last few weeks.

The Panthers have clawed their way to No. 6 in the Ohio Valley Conference standings, following three straight sweeps over Tennessee-Martin, Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State, respectively, at Lantz Arena. Starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Edwardsville, the Panthers will face their in-state rival Edwardsville, which has also been on a roll lately, winning five in a row.

Four of the Cougars’ last five wins have also come at home over Tennessee-Martin, Southeast Missouri, Morehead State and Eastern Kentucky, with their lone road victory of their winning streak coming against Austin Peay. Those wins moved them up to eighth place in the OVC, following this past weekend’s action.

Both teams find themselves in prime position to make the OVC tournament next week, being in the top eight in the conference, which will guarantee them a spot in the tournament. The Panthers now have a 13-14 overall record and are an even 7-7 in OVC play, while Edwardsville has somewhat of a similar record of 14-15 and 6-8 in conference play.

In their only matchup this season, the Panthers defeated the Cougars in four sets on Oct. 1, in Lantz Arena. Abby Saalfrank had nine kills in that matchup for Eastern, but Chelsea Lee led the Panthers to the victory with 13 kills, and was followed by Josie Winner, who had 10 kills to lead the Panthers.

Saalfrank has been on a tear lately, scoring double-doubles in both games against Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State on Friday and Saturday, respectively. The junior from Hoagland, Ind., scored a total of 34 kills and 24 digs during the weekend, giving her 12 double-doubles on the year, and 13 for her collegiate career.

Saalfrank’s 36-point tally during the weekend also helped the right-side attacker add her name to EIasterns 1,000-Point club, as her 1019.5 career points rank in the Top-10 for the current OVC-era. While in other career numbers, she is on the verge of also joining the Eastern 1,000-Kill club as she has 897 all-time put-downs to her credit while ranking just outside the OVC-era Top-10 for kills-per-set.

Saalfrank was named OVC Offensive Player of the Week; following Eastern’s weekend sweeps of the Colonels and Eagles. She was not the only Panther to receive a weekly honor, as fellow junior Marah Bradbury was named OVC Setter of the Week.

Bradbury had a combined 83 assists in both victories last weekend, which included 45 assists in a double-double performance against Eastern Kentucky. She also had 11 digs and four kills in Eastern’s sweep of the Colonels.

“It is great to hear that these two ladies have earned honors,” Eastern coach Kate Price said in a press release. “Both are very deserving and having a successful weekend makes these individual awards possible. It takes a collective team to win the matches and these two did a great job.”

Bradbury also added 38 assists in the sweep over defending OVC champion Morehead State. Career-wise, Bradbury owns 3,516 all-time assists to rank second overall in the current OVC-era and fourth all-time as an NCAA Division I unit.  In OVC Top-10 numbers, she sits in second and third place for overall season and league-only assists, respectively.

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