Eastern volleyball knocks off undefeated Murray State

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

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Murray State volleyball team had only lost one set through their first eight matches of Ohio Valley Conference play and Eastern changed that Saturday night in Lantz Arena.

The Panthers not only handed Murray State two set losses, but also their first match loss of OVC play.

Eastern defeated the Racers in five sets 3-2 in a back-and-forth contest the whole way through.

Looking at the stat sheet, Murray State dominated Eastern in kills, assists and digs. The Racers had a total of 71 kills to Eastern’s 52, 69 assists to Eastern’s 48 and 103 digs to Eastern’s 74.

The Panthers did earn 20 blocks compared to Murray State’s 11.

Red-shirt sophomore Josie Winner led the way for the Panthers in blocks with 12.

“It’s the little things that we talk,” Winner said. “Getting our feet set, getting our hands up and just thinking about each time when I go up what I need to do and just putting it all together, and it all turned out.”

Coach Sam Wolinski told the team late in the match that the stats did not matter.

“In between sets two and three we talked about ‘forget the stat sheets, forget anything,’ this is about a way to execute,” Wolinski said.

Eastern had a quick start in the first set defeating Murray State 25-21.

Murray State had a 19-17 lead late in the set, but a block by senior Chelsea Lee sent the Panthers on a 6-0 run to give them a 23-19 lead.

The Racers grabbed two more points, but a kill by freshman Taylor Smith finished it and gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead in the match.

Murray State showed why they were the only undefeated team going into the night as they tied the match at 1-1 after defeating Eastern 25-14.

The third set was also won by the Racers giving them a 2-1 lead needing just one more set win to remain undefeated.

Facing elimination, the Panthers played a back-and-forth set the entire time as the set was tied 17 different times and neither team had a lead larger than four at any point.

Eastern got the key win to stay alive, 30-28.

The Panthers were down 20-16 facing a set loss that would end the match in Murray State’s favor.

Eastern was able to get it within three, down 23-20 but a pair of kills by sophomore Allie Hueston and a block by Hueston and Smith tied it up at 23.

Murray State got the next point to lead 24-23, but a service error gave the Panthers a point to tie it. The set was tied at 25, 26, 27 and 28.

Eastern got the final two points off of an attack error by Murray State and a block by Hueston and senior Kayla Nesbitt.

After the long fourth set that was only supposed to be played to 25, Eastern and Murray State played a decisive fifth set that the Panthers won 16-14.

Murray State made it seem like it was over jumping out to a quick 7-2 lead but Eastern slowly started inching their way back to make it 7-4 off of a pair of attack errors by Murray State.

The Panthers were once again facing a loss in the eyes down 14-12, with the Racers only needing one point to seal their 10th win of the year and remain undefeated. But Eastern rallied and scored four straight to get the win and finally put a number other than zero in Murray State’s loss column.

Wolinski called the win unbelievable.

“That ending just brought tears to my eyes,” Wolinski said. “I just can’t say enough about the team.”

Hueston, who led the team in kills with 11 said the win was awesome.

“We just didn’t give up,” Hueston said.

Eastern also beat Austin Peay in four sets 3-1 Friday night.

 

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