Volleyball season begins Friday

Sean Hastings, Assistant Sports Editor

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The Eastern volleyball team’s season begins on Friday with a match against Illinois-Chicago at the Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne Invitational.

The Panthers have set high expectations for themselves coming into the season, as their goal is to host the Ohio Valley Conference tournament.

There is a lot of work that has to go into achieving that goal, and Eastern coach Sam Wolinski and the team all know that.

“Everyday that we get on the court, we want to be one percent better,” Wolinski said. “Every weekend that we play, we just need to keep upping the ante.”

Especially now with classes starting, Wolinski said she wants to make sure that the mental aspect of the team’s game is always there and are ready to go everyday.

Playing wise, Wolinski wants the team to get better consistency with serve and receive.

“Serve and receive is key as well, I think that’s for every team in America,” Wolinski said.

The Panthers finished the 2014 season with a 15-16 overall record and an 8-8 record in OVC matches.

The 2015 roster has five returning seniors, including team captains, Stephanie Wallace and Marah Bradbury.

Sophomore Maria Brown, redshirt-sophomore Josie Winner and sophomore Allie Hueston are also returning for the Panthers.

Brown will not be available this weekend, but Wolinski said that she will be available next weekend at the DePaul Blue Demon Invite.

The Panthers also have six freshmen on the roster in Nicole Schaldt, Taylor Smith, Rachel Holthaus, Anne Hughes, Gina Furlin and Abby Knight.

The seniors of the team have all helped the freshman make the adjustment to college volleyball.

Even though the freshman are coming into their first year, Wolinski said that the freshman group will be able to do really big things for the team.

“Taylor Smith, who’s a local kid from Mattoon, we’re really fortunate to have her,” Wolinski said. “She’s very versatile. She can swing and she can also set. She’s a dynamic athlete.”

Wolinski as brought in a new swing blocking technique, as the team was a static blocking team in 2014.

“We usually implement footwork probably three-to-four times a week just so that we are emphasizing that, along with our verbal cues,” Wolinski said.

The Panthers won’t begin conference play until Sept. 25 but know the importance of the four weekends of non-conference play.

“Obviously we want to win some matches, that goes without saying,” Wolinski said. “But, we just want to see the progress, and we want them to get comfy and being comfortable out on the court.”

They will play 16 OVC games between Sept. 25 and Nov. 14 with the OVC tournament starting Nov. 19.

This will be the first time the Panthers take on an opponent other than themselves so they will be able to look at how the shape up against another team and make adjustments as they go.

 

Sean Hastings can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]