Volleyball starts the season with home tourney


Bryan Bund

Middlehitter Abby Knight spikes the ball against Belmont defenders Friday at Lantz Arena. The Panthers fell 1-3 in four sets.

Kaitlin Cordes, Volleyball Reporter

The volleyball team opens their season with a two-day home tournament Friday and Saturday.

The Panthers will compete in the round-robin tournament with Green Bay, University of Memphis and Bradley University, with Eastern opening its tournament play against Green Bay Friday at 7 p.m. in Lantz Arena.

Coach Sam Wolinski said that Green Bay’s 2016 season proves it will most likely be the Panthers’ toughest opponent.

“(Green Bay) came off a great season last year. They were a top 100 RPI team,” Wolinski said. “They’re pre-seasoned ranked second in their conference again, and they return quite a few of their starters again.”

Green Bay swept all three sets last season when the Panthers traveled to Wisconsin. Lydia DeWeese and Jessica Wolf return this year and registered double-digit kills to carry the Phoenix to their sweep over the Panthers. The Green Bay squad won 21 games last year, the second most in the school’s history.

Wolinski said much of Green Bay’s gameplay is centered around their middle position.

“We have film of them last year, so we can at least watch some film to have an idea of what like they do and knowing that they could be very different,” Wolinski said. “Their middles are returning, and knowing that they play a big part in their offense, there will be some similarities and we can at least have an idea of what to be ready for.”

The Panthers will wrap up the weekend Saturday, playing Memphis at 1 p.m. and Bradley at 7 p.m. While Eastern previously faced Memphis last season, Wolinski said this is the first time the team has played Bradley in her three-year tenure. The last time the Panthers took on the Braves was in 2014.

Bradley fell in four sets in an exhibition against Saint Louis earlier this month. The team was led by Erica Haslag, who had 16 kills in the outing. The junior averaged 3.33 kills per set and had the highest kill total in a decade for the school.

The Panthers host Memphis this time around in a tournament of their own. The Eastern squad lost in three sets last season at the Tiger Invitational, keeping the score close at 23-25, 20-25, 20-25. Memphis has yet to play this season.

The Tigers lost power hitter Summer Morgan to graduation. The last time the two teams met, Morgan tallied 11 kills to lead her squad to defeat the Panthers, but Eastern senior Josie Winner was just one kill shy of a double-digit stat.

Wolinski said in her team’s down time during the tournament, the players and coaching staff will scout their remaining opponents as the Panthers have yet to see them in gameplay. She said playing the tournament will be a good way to kick off the season.

“We have three good teams, and I think we’re all looking forward to getting the season going,” Wolinski said.

Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]