Volleyball team’s comeback falls short on Saturday

Maher Kawash, Volleyball Reporter

The Eastern volleyball team returned to the court for some exhibition play over the weekend, but had its comeback attempt stifled in a five-set loss.

IUPUI was the opponent at hand and it was a slow start that plagued the Panthers, which comes as a similar trend from their struggles last season.

The fifth and final set was a game of runs for both sides as kills ignited a 3-0 stretch for each team.

But the comeback victory fell short in a 12-15 as IUPUI’s Gabby Fisher made the difference with 15 kills in the match.

“I think we learned how important it is to start strong from the very beginning, especially with the fifth set only going up to 15,” sophomore Lindsey Powers said.

After dropping the first set 17-25, Eastern inched closer in the second despite still falling short 21-25 as IUPUI had two girls register 10 kills.

The third and fourth sets served as the turning point of the match as hitting percentages over .300 led Eastern to earn comeback wins of 25-23 and 25-19.

Allie Hueston and Taylor Smith are expected to carry a big load for Eastern as some key veterans and they proved to be ready for it with a solid opening performance.

Smith comes back as one of the best players across the entire Ohio Valley Conference, and proving just why as she recorded a team-high 18 digs.

Hueston started her senior year as one of three Panthers with eight kills in the match, along with Smith and freshman Kylie Michael.

Michael serves plenty of potential for this Eastern team as the 6’0 freshman broke several records in high school, recording the most kills in a career at 1,000.

That goes a long way for the Panthers as they ranked dead last in kills last season, averaging about 10 per game.

Gina Furlin also provided a special spark in the loss, already appearing to be in mid-season form with 16 assists.

“We have a lot of depth on the court,” Powers said. “Each player can bring something different to the team and there will be a lot of competition to get playing time which has really elevated the level of play in practice.”

Powers may have benefited the most from playing time in her freshman campaign as she even got some experience at the libero position.

“The experience I gained from last year has definitely made me more confident and comfortable out on the court,” Powers said. “I hope to teach the younger girls as much as I can during these next couple months to prepare us for conference play.”

That experience from last season as a team may go a long way this year as they try to rebuild off just winning five games a year ago.

That all begins this Friday and Saturday as the games start to count with regular season play opening at home for Eastern in the EIU Panther Invitational.

Bradley, Green Bay and Memphis are coming to town for that two-day event in Lantz Arena.

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