Hueston, Bailey, Smith earn weekly OVC awards

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

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The Eastern volleyball team cruised past Tennessee Tech Friday night and followed that up with a 3-2 comeback win against Jacksonville State Saturday night.

Eastern’s strong play did not go unnoticed, especially the play by three of its players. Senior Allie Hueston, freshman Laurel Bailey and junior Taylor Smith picked up OVC honors.

Hueston earned Offensive Player of the Week, Bailey picked up her first career conference honor as Newcomer of the Week and Smith was named Setter of the Week.

Hueston stepped up in the tougher match of the weekend against Jacksonville State and collected a season-high, 27 kills. She also had nine blocks in the match.

She said she earned her personal accolade was because everyone else did their job first to set her up.

“Our passers did really well and that was huge because our setters had options available and when our hitters got the ball, they executed,” Hueston said. “Overall we pushed through together and losing wasn’t an option for anyone on our side of the net.”

This is the second time Hueston was named a player of the week this season.

For freshman Bailey, this is her first despite having a strong season for Eastern already.

Since becoming a Panther, Bailey has been a regular in the starting lineup and has taken advantage of it. She is second on the team in sets played and leads the team in kills with 228 and points with 262.

“I didn’t think i would be having this big of a role so soon,” Bailey said. “First coming to EIU I didn’t’ even think I was going to play, so by getting this opportunity it has been a great experience so far. I am so glad i have gotten a chance to play and prove myself to my coach and team and I can’t wait to see how the rest of the season turns out.”

Bailey earned 30 kills this weekend and also put together her seventh double-double performance of the year.

Against Jacksonville State, she dominated. She had season-high 17 kills, season-high 27 digs and a season-high 23 digs.

Eastern lost the first two sets, but made an adjustment and started using two setters, redshirt sophomore Gina Furlin and Smith.

“(It) let us have more options hitting wise,” Bailey said. “Also, the defense was getting every ball up. Which eventually, after being point-for-point, we ended up pulling ahead and winning the match.”

She said she feels honored to have the recognition from the OVC and wants to show them they made the right decision.

This was Smith’s first time picking up this award this season.

Smith continues to lead the NCAA in triple-doubles with six after getting one more Saturday against Jacksonville State.

Smith finished with 10 kills, 32 assists and 14 digs. She had 36 assists against Tennessee Tech, which was a season high.

She earned her Setter of the Week award for finishing the weekend with 69 assists and an average of 8.62 assists-per-set.

She has 513 assists this season, which is the team lead by more than 150. Redshirt sophomore Gina Furlin has the second most with 345.

The Panthers were tied with Jacksonville State for seventh in the OVC before the weekend, meaning one team would leap in front of the other following their match.

Eastern holds the fifth spot in the conference with a 6-4 record. Belmont is also 6-4, but the Panthers have the better record of the two schools.

Having three players win Player of the Week honors says a lot of about Eastern volleyball, Hueston said.

“If it weren’t for every person on our team, we wouldn’t have had three people with OVC honors this week,” Hueston said. “We all help push each other to be better and we all do the best we can to put each other in the best possible situation to be successful. I think that was evident in this weekend’s play.”

The Panthers have two more home matches this weekend against Austin Peay and Murray State.

Sean Hastings can be reached at

581-2812 or [email protected]