Smith earns triple-double in loss


Bryan Bund | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern freshman Laurel Bailey returns a ball over the net against Jacksonville State on Oct. 21 at Lantz Arena. Eastern won the conference the match 3-2. The Panthers have a 6-6 conference record this season.

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor


Junior Taylor Smith recorded her seventh triple double of the season to add to her NCAA lead, but it was not enough to propel the Panthers past the second-best team in the OVC, Southern Illinois–Edwardsville.

Southern Illinois–Edwardsville came away with a 3-0 win over the Panthers. Smith had 10 kills, 11 assists and 11 digs.

If there is a silver lining for the Panthers, they showed they could hang with the top teams in the conference. Eastern lost 25-22, 27-25 and 25-14.

Eastern was right on the brink of winning the first and second set, but two three-point rallies by Southern Illinois–Edwardsville had Eastern down 2-0 going into the break.

Eastern and Southern Illinois–Edwardsville were knotted up at 22 in the first set, but the Cougars rallied for three points in a row including two kills and service ace.

While the first two sets was the Cougars attacking Eastern for the win, two errors by the Panthers was the downfall in the second set.

The Panthers needed one point to close out the second set 26-24, but freshman Laurel Bailey had a service error to tie it and an attack error gave the Cougars a 26-25 lead. They closed it out with a kill from Taylor Jones.

Eastern had a 6.2 kill percentage and the Cougars had a 19.3 kill percentage. Eastern has a 19.9 rate on the season.

Coach Sam Wolinski said the low percentage was due to a lack of execution by the Panthers.

“The first two sets were battles,” Wolinski said. “We had the lead in the second set and need to execute in the red zone (once we hit 20 points).”

The Panthers, for their last six matches of the season, play three of the top four teams in the OVC. And with Eastern trying to get itself back to the OVC tournament, as tough as the matches might be, need more wins.

The Panthers are hanging on to the seventh spot in the standings with Tennessee–Martin right behind them in eighth. Eastern has played one more match than the Skyhawks.

The Panthers play at Tennessee-Martin Nov. 10.

The way the conference stands right now, it is a four-team race to land the final two spots for the tournament. It is a race between Eastern, Tennessee–Martin, Southeast Missouri and Jacksonville State, which is in sixth place with a 6-6 record.

Eastern has just three matches remaining to get itself in the OVC Tournament.

The Panthers were there in 2015, but were knocked out in the first round by Tennessee Tech.

And with the toughest portion of its schedule coming up, Wolinski is confident in her team’s ability.

“This team knows they can beat anyone in this league,” Wolinski said. “We just need to get back to consistency on our side.”

Sean Hastings can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]