Opponents confused by volleyball team’s offensive approach


File Photo | The Daily Eastern News Eastern junior Lexi May (21) and graduate Allie Hueston try to block a ball in a match against Western Illinois at Lantz Arena last season. May has 14 spikes already this season.

Tom O'Connor, Volleyball Reporter

Approaching the action from the front row, redshirt freshman Kylie Michael leaned in toward the net, feet positioned parallel with Iona setter Emma Rose, who stood a mere two feet away. 

The force of her hands, swinging back and then swinging forward again, set up a chance for her to truly pulverize the ball. 

She slapped the ball toward a ring of Iona defenders, but when the Gaels issued their counterattack, Michael lightly patted the ball, which fell squarely in front of a confounded Rose. 

“I think Iona did a good job of putting a good block up there,” said Eastern Women’s volleyball coach Julie Allen. “It was really our hitters that took the time to see what was open and take the shot that they wanted.”

Throughout the Panther Invitational this past weekend, specifically in its 3-1 victory over Iona, Eastern approached its tournament rivals with a mixed variety of kills and, depending on the situation that presented itself, would serve up a different flavor, just to keep opponents in check. 

At certain segments of the game it was the lethal spike, in others a tap at the net, as well as every other subtype in between.

What might be warranted in one scenario could be grossly inappropriate in another. 

On their offensive drives, the Panthers noticed the potholes that, inevitably, line opposing defense avenue, filling them in with kills and aces.

“Our setters are doing a good job at just putting a nice hittable ball up there and letting our hitters choose what they want to do,” Allen said.

That said, the Panthers had twice as many 4-0 runs than Iona in the match and, really, if not for these scoring blitzes, the Panthers would have remained close with Iona in sets three and four.

Iona trailed 18-16 in sets three and four before the Panthers’ point total underwent a bit of a growth spurt.

Eastern’s diversification of kills provided an extra breath of oxygen to its offense, permitting the Panthers to go on a protracted run.

An 8-0 run for the Panthers, finalizing set three, was the largest streak to close out a match in the entire tournament. 

It began on a full throttled kill prompted by sophomore Laurel Bailey, and ended on junior Maggie Runge’s dump at the net.

In addition to showcasing talent as a defensive specialist, Runge, whose .362 attack percentage leads the team, rendered her knack for scoring points in the invitational, injecting 23 kills into the Panthers attack.

Similarly, sophomore Laurel Bailey has averaged 3.20 kills per set, which denotes the eighth highest total in the Ohio Valley Conference. 

Both players modified their kills for the purpose of disorienting the defense.

Had the Panthers resolved on adopting a constant, hard hitting style to their game, teams would have caught on and stymied these scoring runs before they truly prospered.

Tom O’Connor can be reached at either 581-2812 or [email protected]