Volleyball winless in Green Bay tournament

Maher Kawash, Volleyball Reporter

Junior rightside hitter Hayley Richardson spikes the ball during the Blue/Grey scrimmage Aug. 21 at Lantz Arena.
Justin Brown
Junior rightside hitter Hayley Richardson spikes the ball during the Blue/Grey scrimmage Aug. 21 at Lantz Arena.

Three matches resulted into three losses for the Eastern volleyball team as it opened the 2016 campaign at the Green Bay Invitational in Wisconsin.

The Panthers earned a win in the first set of the season against Stephen F. Austin on Friday, but stumbled the rest of the way by dropping the rest of their sets in the tournament.

That first match offered a back and forth affair with Eastern and the Ladyjacks.

Freshman Maggie Runge sparked a stretch of four straight points early in the first set with one of her six kills in the match.

The back and forth affair would continue in the second set of the match as the two teams were held at a tie five different times.

The set was all knotted up, 24-24, as the Panthers searched for that second win of the match but instead, the Ladyjacks used two straight kills to win the set and tie the match.

Stephen F. Austin never looked back after that, winning the next two sets 25-15 and 25-16 as they handed Eastern its first loss of the season.

The rest of the tournament offered more of the same for the Panthers as they could not top 20 points in any set the rest of the way.

“We played some decent sets during the tournament, but right now we must improve the consistency of our ball control,” Eastern coach Sam Wolinski said.

No team wants to start a season at 0-3 but Wolinski still had plenty of positives to take away from the weekend.

“Obviously we would have liked to pick up a couple of wins this weekend, but we learned a lot about ourselves and what we need to do better each and every time we step onto the court,” Wolinski said.

Even after a struggling opening weekend for Eastern, Wolinski is still confident in what the team can do this season.

“We have some solid young players, along with some returners, and the pieces are all there,” Wolinski said.

With that being said, the Panthers received a special performance from sophomore Taylor Smith as she earned All-Tournament honors.

Smith led the team with 57 assists in the tournament and did her part on defense with 21 digs on the weekend.

“It was very rewarding to be named to the All-Tournament team,” Smith said. “It just makes me want to keep working harder, not only for myself, but more importantly for my team.”

While Smith led the way on both sides of play, the Panthers also welcomed red-shirt freshman Gina Furlin back to the court.

Furlin was sidelined all of last season due to injury but returned to action this weekend with 13 assists over the weekend.

“It was nice to have her back out there playing for us again,” Wolinski said.

With the right pieces in place, the Panthers now turn their focus to Tuesday’s home opener against Butler.

“We are a very young team this year,” Smith said. “We need to take this season day by day and really become a more unified team on the court.”

As Eastern gears up for its first action of the season in Lantz Arena, the team is focused on improvement.

“The first tournament showed us this season is a working progress,” Smith said. “Our main goal is to be our best in November when the OVC tournament comes around.”

The match will begin at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, and the Panthers follow that with another tournament beginning Friday.

Maher Kawash can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]