Volleyball team picks up 4th straight win

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

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It may be a new year, but the Eastern volleyball team is closing out the 2014 season in the same fashion as the 2013 season.

The Panthers defeated their in-state rivals, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville in four sets for their fourth straight victory Tuesday night in Edwardsville. Despite losing the first set by a score of 25-20, the Panthers stormed back to win the next three sets 25-22, 25-22 and 26-24.

Outside hitters Abby Saalfrannk and Chelsea Lee combined for 25 kills to lead the Panthers’ attack, with Saalfrank accounting for 14 of those kills. She narrowly missed her 13th double-double by recording nine digs to go with those kills. Lee finished with 11 kills and also had two assists and one dig.

The victory ended a five-game winning streak by the Cougars, four of which came at home. In their last matchup the Panthers also beat the Cougars in four sets at Lantz Arena in October.

Stephanie Wallace and Kelsey Brooke led the Panthers’ defense with 34 of Eastern’s 67 digs. Wallace finished with 21 digs and one assist from the libero position, while Brooke followed with 13 digs and 2 assists.

It was not always an easy night for those two.

Four Edwardsville attackers finished with double-digit kills, including outside hitter Emily Harrison, who finished with a team-high 15 kills and one block. Her fellow outside hitter Taylor Held almost matched her, but only finished with 14 kills, to go along with nine digs.

Wallace and Brooke were not the only defensive stars for the Panthers on Tuesday. Freshman Allie Hueston continued her reign as the Panthers’ leading blocker, stuffing six Cougar shots to tie her season high.

She also aided the Panthers’ attack with seven kills, and added one more dig to the Panthers’ defensive effort. Setter Marah Bradbury also played a huge role in the Panthers’ attack. The junior setter from Decatur, Ind., rewarded the Panthers’ offense with 40 assists, and even helped herself at the net with four kills. She also had eight digs

The win brings the Panthers to a 13-14 overall record, and an 8-7 record in Ohio Valley Conference play, the first time they’ve accomplished that feat this season. With the OVC tournament beginning next week, the Panthers also solidified their spot in the tournament at No. 5 overall in the standings.

Only one game remains until that time, and it will be another road test against the Tennessee State. The Tigers currently have a record of 9-21 and 3-9 in the OVC.

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