Volleyball team struggling despite preseason predictions

Maher Kawash, Volleyball Reporter

Sophomore Abby Knight (11) and Freshman Katie Sommer go up for a block Friday, Sept. 9 at Lantz Arena.
Justin Brown
Sophomore Abby Knight (11) and Freshman Katie Sommer go up for a block Friday, Sept. 9 at Lantz Arena.

The Eastern volleyball team came into this season voted to finish fourth among Ohio Valley Conference opponents, but that has not quite been the result 19 games into the season.

The Panthers earned their first OVC win of the season this past weekend against a team that was also winless in conference play.

It was a four set win against Tennessee-Martin, but the Panthers recent struggles were apparent in both of its matches over the weekend.

Eastern has pushed through this part of the season while holding a 4-15 record on the year, and they are sitting at 1-3 in conference play.

That win against the Skyhawks came after Eastern was swept in three sets by a 1-15 Southeast Missouri State team just a day before.

The Panthers up and down performance in the weekend matches represents a trend the team has struggled all season long.

Eastern has been dealt the task of playing with zero seniors on the team, and it has forced some younger Panthers to step into bigger roles.

While the growth is apparent in each match, the win column represents a team that has been close in many matches, but falls just short.

Eastern has either struggled in the first set of a match then improved as it goes on, but its beginning struggles prove to be the difference.

On the other hand, the Panthers have came out strong in many mathces, but have not had enough to finish it off.

A prime example of that would be Eastern’s match earlier on in the season against Butler.

That was a five set loss for the Panthers, but may be arguably one of their best matches of the season.

After dropping the first set to the Bulldogs, Eastern answered back by taking the next two.

The Panthers struggled in the final two sets on their way to dropping the match, but the loss did not seem like a normal loss.

The players were excited because they realized they grew in that match, and dealt with adversity.

While that could have been a turning point in this season for Eastern, the following matches have not met that yet.

Eastern has struggled at home (0-5), and has fallen short of its competition as a young team would expect to do.

One factor that played into the team’s struggles has been a tougher non-conference schedule.

The Panthers have faced the likes of Mississippi State, a Power 5 conference team.

Along with other tough non-conference matchups, Eastern has its hands full in the OVC.

The Panthers are about to return to Lantz Arena, and first up is a third place Austin Peay team.

While it is still early in the conference slate, second place Belmont has already knocked off Eastern, and now third place Austin Peay comes into Charleston.

Following that match, the Panthers are dealt the task of facing another 3-1 team in Murray State.

Time will tell which teams will emerge in the OVC, but the Panthers have an opportunity to turn this season around in some upcoming matches against top teams.

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