Volleyball season ends in semifinals

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

After a stunning five-set victory over Eastern Kentucky the day before, the Eastern volleyball team dropped a four-set affair to Belmont to end its season on Nov. 21, at the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament semifinals in Murray, Ky.

That would be the final victory for the Bruins, who were swept by the No. 1 seed and tournament champion, Murray State, which advanced into the NCAA Tournament.

Eastern’s outside hitter Abby Saalfrank represented the Panthers on the all-tournament team, after totaling 32 kills and 23 digs, including a double-double against the Colonels in the quarterfinals. In that match she recorded 24 kills and 18 digs for her 14th double-double of the season.

This was the first time she had been honored as a member of the conference’s all-tournament team.

“Everything just seemed to come together on Thursday (against Eastern Kentucky),” Saalfrank said in a press release. “Our blocking got off to a slow start but we eventually started to click, and our communication between the back and front courts was really great.”

Against the Bruins, she finished with eight kills and three service aces before leaving during the third set with an injury.

Teammate Allie Hueston took over as the leading scorer, finishing with 15 kills, and was also solid on defense with five blocks at the net. She also tallied 11 kills, four blocks and two digs in the overtime victory over the Colonels.

Before the tournament, she was named to the OVC all-newcomer team.

Eastern finished its season with a record of 15-16, including an even 9-9 mark in OVC play, but won the first round quarterfinal match for the first time in three years.

“It was important that they came out and knew what was riding on it,” Eastern coach Kate Price said. “But it was also important that they enjoyed the tournament, and know that they did a lot of work to get there.”

This was the fifth straight time the Bruins had defeated the Panthers, since joining the OVC in 2012.

Three Bruins (19-13) registered double-digit kills, led by senior Scarlet Gable’s 18 put-downs. Teammates Alex Martin and OVC freshman of the year Arianna Person finished with 10 and 16 kills, respectively.

Two Panther defenders, libero Stephanie Wallace and Kelsey Brooke, finished both matches with double-digit digs, while senior Dakota Springer finished with 13 against Eastern Kentucky. Wallace and Brooke averaged 23 and 15 digs per match.

As for Brooke, Friday’s match was the last of her collegiate career along with Springer, outside hitter Katie Kirby and middle blocker Kelsey Roggemann. Brooke said that her career has been an extremely unique experience, especially playing for Price, a former national champion at Penn State.

“She comes from a very recognizable and reputable program, and for me I think I’ve learned a lot more about how much hard work and dedication it takes to truly become better at something,” Brooke said. “I think I’ve become a much stronger leader because of her and am mentally tougher and have grown as an athlete and individual because of her.”

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