OVC volleyball tournament starts Thursday

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

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After two months of matches, the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament begins at 10 a.m. Thursday at Murray State. Eastern will play in the first game, as the Panthers take on the No. 3 seed in Eastern Kentucky, which the Panthers swept at Lantz Arena on Nov. 7.

The Panthers are the No. 6 seed in the eight-team tournament, which will take place in Murray, Ky., as the Racers who won the OVC regular-season title and enter as the No. 1 seed.

The other teams to qualify for the tournament are Belmont, Austin Peay, Southeast Missouri, Jacksonville State and Tennessee Tech.

First-round matches for Thursday will also feature No. 2 seed Belmont against No. 7 seed Austin Peay at 12:30 p.m. Murray State plays No. 8 seed Southeast Missouri 3 p.m. The last match of the day starts at 5:30 p.m., when No. 4 seed Jacksonville State takes on No. 5 seed Tennessee Tech.

All games will be streamed live on the OVC Digital Network, while the semifinals and championship matches that will take place on Friday and Saturday will be available on ESPN3.com.

Eastern coach Kate Price said that despite being on a hot streak lately, winning five of the last six games, the Panthers have kept their composure, but are thrilled for a chance to play for another championship.

“I think they have a level-head, but they seem excited,” Price said. “They know things can be taken away from you easily, especially when it comes to the conference tournament.”

The Panther have lost their first round matchup for the last three years, but Price said the Panthers’ upper-class leaders have made sure their teammates are focused, especially during the last few weeks.

“Last year we had a very good season, and it slipped through our fingers at the very end,” Price said. “They’re a lot of returners starting, and they’re focused on the fact that as much as we can be playing well, if we have one bad night, we’re back to square one.”

Going out with a bang

Even though it came into their final match with a 2-28 overall record, Morehead State gained some momentum heading into next season with a win over OVC champion Murray State on Saturday.

The Eagles, the 2013 OVC champions, defeated the Racers in four sets for their third victory of season and in OVC play, leaving head coach Jaime Gordon happy for his seniors’ exit on senior night.

“I’m glad Laura, Colbey and Alex get to finish with a win,” Gordon said in a press release. “This wasn’t the season we scripted, having had so much success in the past, but no one ever quit and today we put together a complete match against a terrific opponent.”

Senior Laura McDermott ended her collegiate career with 17 kills and nine blocks from the middle hitter position, giving her 997 kills and 385 blocks for her career.

“We could have collapsed after losing the third set, but didn’t,” Gordon said.  “You have to give a lot of credit to the young ladies in our program.  The returning players really wanted this one for the seniors.  We pulled together, made the necessary adjustments and finished on a positive note.”

The Eagles dropped the third set to the Racers, 25-16, but were able to score a 25-21 victory in the first set, a 28-26 victory in the second set and a 25-22 victory in the fourth set.

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