Column: Panther volleyball far from what it was one year ago

Maher Kawash, Volleyball Reporter

Middle hitters Allie Hueston (9) and Josei Winner (1) attempt a block from a Eastern Kentucky hitter Friday, Oct. 14 at Lantz Arena.
Middle hitters Allie Hueston (9) and Josei Winner (1) attempt a block from a Eastern Kentucky hitter Friday, Oct. 14 at Lantz Arena.

On Oct. 24, 2015 the Eastern volleyball team knocked off undefeated Murray State for its eighth win in the Ohio Valley Conference.

One year removed from that monumental win, the Panthers look like a completely different team.

Most teams in sports are forced to go through growing pains or a rebuilding time, and that is what the Eastern volleyball team has endured in the past year.

Luckily for the Panthers, the future is bright and with the history of the program’s success on their side, the team looks to face a great opportunity soon.

A roster that features zero seniors and some inconsistent trends, this years’ Eastern team has fallen off from what it was a year ago.

The Panthers are coming off a recent crucial win and are still close to the eighth and final spot needed to qualify for the conference tournament.

But with that being said, Eastern is 5-20 overall on the season and just 2-8 against conference opponents.

With six games still remaining on the season the Panthers have already surpassed their five loss total from a year ago.

To add to a little more of the struggles, Eastern has already lost five more games than it did all of last season.

Eastern has also struggled more on its home court, and still has not earned a win in Lantz Arena this season.

Along with its 0-9 home record this year, its notable that seven of Eastern’s 16 wins came at home last season.

The struggles are understandable considering the amount of youth on the team, but despite the difference of play in the past two years, Eastern really can improve.

With all the losses, the Panthers are still in reaching distance of competing for a conference tournament berth.

And on top of that, Eastern has seen its younger players such as sophomores Taylor Smith and junior Maria Brown improve their games.

Smith and Brown have elevated into leadership roles and have also proven their worth on the court.

Freshmen Katie Sommer, Lyndsey Powers, and Maggie Runge are just some of the few that have posted consistently improving numbers all season long.

The Panthers have also used contributions from many others on the team, and it could be said the future is bright.

It just might take some time to get there, but if Eastern can still somehow sneak into that eight spot in the OVC it would work wonders.

It’s always understandable to watch teams go through rebuilding season, but if they can still crack a postseason tournament while doing so then it would benefit greatly.

Brown said before that she wants to play her best so the younger girls can experience what it is like to be in that conference tournament.

Any experience is good experience, but for this young Panther team it could be so much more.

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