The Eastern volleyball team wrapped up its preseason action with the annual blue and gray inter-squad scrimmage Sunday afternoon, and the gray team swept the two set match.
Although the scrimmage was opened with a laid back game of rock, paper, scissors to decide which side gets first serve, the Panthers still got down to business as they are just five days away from their season opener.
The gray team came away with a 28-26 victory in the first set, and followed that with a 25-20 win in the second.
Winning is always important, but there was much more to this scrimmage than the scoreboard.
“We are improving on a lot of little things, and I think we got one percent better today,” Eastern Coach Samantha Wolinski said.
Wolinski has a different looking team in her second year at the helm as five seniors from last year graduated.
The Panthers will rely on some young talent with five freshmen on the roster and nine underclassmen total.
Although there is not much experience on the team, Wolinski said patience is important.
“I think we’ve done a good job, but I keep telling myself to have patience,” Wolinski said. “As we go into playing Friday at Green Bay, it is important to remind the girls to be calm, cool, and collective.”
With the loss of Stephanie Wallace, one freshman that is sure to fill in a big role as the libero is Lindsey Powers.
Powers never played the position in high school or club seasons, but Wolinski thinks she is well suited for the role.
“She has a lot of work ahead of her, but the thing is she comes in with a really good skill set,” Wolinski said.
The scrimmage gave Powers an opportunity to not only get some experience in, but also a chance to tackle the nerves according to Wolinski.
“She has a perfectionist mindset which is great, but we just need her to make playable ball,” Wolinski said.
As she gets familiar with her new role, the team will also depend on sophomore Taylor Smith and junior Allie Hueston.
Smith and Hueston were selected as members of the 2016 Preseason All-OVC team, and will be expected to lead the young Panthers.
Hueston ended last season with a .386 hitting percentage which was a conference-best, and Smith led the OVC with seven triple-doubles a year ago.
With that being said, the Panthers get their first test by opening the season with the Green Bay Tournament Friday.
“We just need to fine tune a couple things before then,” Wolinski said. “We just really need to focus on consistency and having a balanced offense.”
The Panthers will open the tournament against Stephen F. Austin at 10 a.m. Friday, and will follow that game with a night match against Green Bay at 7 p.m.
Eastern will then wrap up tournament play at 1 p.m. Saturday as they face off against South Dakota State.
Maher Kawash can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]