Panthers win one, lose one over weekend

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

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The Eastern volleyball team had its five-game win streak snapped by Southeast Missouri Friday but got back on the winning track with a win against Tennessee-Martin on Saturday.

The Panthers also saw the return of senior Abby Saalfrank who missed who missed the last six matches.

Saalfrank had eight kills against SEMO, and 12 against UT-Martin.

The Panthers won the first set 25-22, but dropped the next two 25-19 and 25-17.

Although the Panthers tied the match at two in the fourth set, it was not enough as SEMO got the decisive fifth-set win 15-13.

Looking at the stat sheet, the Panthers would have seemed to win because they out-killed the Redhawks 71-67, and matched them in digs 69-69 but sometimes the stats lie.

“Tonight was a tough loss for us,” coach Sam Wolinski said.

Wolinski said that the girls fought hard to take it to five sets and almost came back as they were down 11-4.

The Panthers had four hitters finish in double-digit kills. Freshman Taylor Smith had 11, sophomore Allie Hueston had 12, senior Chelsea Lee had 15 and senior Kayla Nesbitt had 10.

Smith finished with a triple-double having 11 kills, 34 assists, and 11 digs.

Eastern also had four players in double-digit digs. Senior Stephanie Wallace led the way with 16, freshman Anne Hughes had 15, Smith had 11, and sophomore Maria Brown had 11.

After playing the close match with SEMO Friday, the Panthers had another close one with UT-Martin Saturday night where they found themselves on the winning end.

Eastern and UT-Martin played a five-set match after the Panthers were unable to close it out in the third set after winning the first two.

The Panthers won the first two sets 25-17, and 31-29.

The Panthers did not have a lead in the third set until they went on a 4-0 scoring run to take the lead 19-18. Eastern then had a 24-23 lead needing just one point to win, but the Skyhawks tied it and took the lead 25-24

The teams went back and forth for a few points, each team finding themselves needing to score one point to stay alive.

UT-Martin had a 29-28 lead but the Panthers scored three straight to win.

Wolinski said it was another gutsy performance for the team having to battle through adversity.

“Six hitters in double-digit kills was huge for us pulling out this win in addition to our back row doing a good job of controlling the passing and digging game for us throughout the match,” Wolinski said.

Red-shirt sophomore Josie Winner had 11 kills, Smith had 10, Hueston had 11, Brown had 10, Lee had 15, and Saalfrank had 12.

Eastern also had four players in double-digit digs. Wallace had 20, Brown had 13 and Hughes and Smith each had 16.

Wolinski said it was a total team effort getting the win.

Both matches were very close and Wallace said the difference was the team had more of a sense of urgency Saturday.

“We were making a better effort to earn our own points today rather than letting (UT-Martin) make the errors,” Wallace said.

The Panthers now have a 9-4 record in Ohio Valley Conference play and sit in third place in the standings.

Eastern will take on Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State next weekend on the road.

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