Future looks bright for Panther volleyball

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

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Time may have run out on the Eastern volleyball team, but the time for reflection of the previous season and hard work and preparation for the future is already underway.

The Panthers finished the season 15-16 overall and 9-9 in Ohio Valley Conference play, finishing sixth in the OVC, despite being picked to finish second in the conference by OVC head coaches and sports information directors. However, the Panthers were successful in getting three players all-conference honors, including a freshman.

Juniors Marah Bradbury and Abby Saalfrank were named to the all-OVC team, while freshman Allie Hueston became a member of the all-freshman team. Bradbury’s 10.8 assists-per-set this season ranked second in the OVC and fifth in the nation. Her total career assists of 1,284 also rank fifth on Eastern’s all-time list.

“I have to give a lot of credit to my teammates,” Bradbury said. “I’m involved in a lot of plays with them, and I couldn’t do anything that I do without them. It involves our whole team, what we have, to follow our strategy on the court.”

Saalfrank has not been an unfamiliar name for many teams in the OVC. The junior outside hitter finished the season with 14 double-doubles, the highest of her collegiate career, and added her name to Eastern’s 1,000 Point Club. She only needs 72 more kills to become a member of the Eastern’s 1,000-kill club as well.

If her senior season will be anything like her junior season, Saalfrank will be able to become a part of that list of Eastern’s all-time best, especially because she led the Panthers with 422 kills this season.

“I think this season I put more of a focus on volleyball,” Saalfrank said. “A lot of the summer was spent working on getting better and helping the team.”

As for Hueston, she was not the only freshman to receive significant playing time this year. Fellow freshman Maria Brown and red-shirt freshman Josie Winner made several appearances in the starting lineup, but it was Hueston who became the only freshman to start every game this year, and also make her way to the Eastern record book.

Her 104 blocks this year led the Panthers and shattered the previous freshman mark that had stood for 10 years.

One of the blights of this season’s end, as it is for every sport, is the loss of senior players and teammates to graduation. The Panthers will lose four athletes this year including, defensive players Kelsey Brooke and Dakota Springer, as well as outside hitter Kayla Kirby and middle blocker Kelsey Roggemann.

Brooke and Springer were key to the Panthers back row this year, combining for 586 digs and like their fellow seniors, became a part of a new game day tradition.

“Right before games this year, we listened to the “Original Don Remix” by Flossatradamus, but it became fun that we did a “dance” routine to a song which nobody understood the words to,” Brooke said.

Take notes choreographers because here’s the routine.

“We like to stand in our lockers, flash the lights, and then when the base drops we jump out of our lockers, and drop the base,” Brooke said with a laugh. “These last few years have been a blessing.”

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