Volleyball team starts new season with exhibition game Saturday

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Volleyball team starts new season with exhibition game Saturday

File Photo | The Daily Eastern News
Katie Sommer (left) and Maggie Runge (right) try to block a Southern Illinois Edwardsville player’s hit during Eastern’s 3-0 victory in Lantz Arena in September 2018.

File Photo | The Daily Eastern News Katie Sommer (left) and Maggie Runge (right) try to block a Southern Illinois Edwardsville player’s hit during Eastern’s 3-0 victory in Lantz Arena in September 2018.

File Photo | The Daily Eastern News Katie Sommer (left) and Maggie Runge (right) try to block a Southern Illinois Edwardsville player’s hit during Eastern’s 3-0 victory in Lantz Arena in September 2018.

File Photo | The Daily Eastern News Katie Sommer (left) and Maggie Runge (right) try to block a Southern Illinois Edwardsville player’s hit during Eastern’s 3-0 victory in Lantz Arena in September 2018.

Adam Tumino, Volleyball Reporter

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The Eastern volleyball team is set to take the court against Saint Louis for an exhibition match Saturday

The Panthers will look to bounce back this season after finishing 10th in the OVC last season.

Their overall record of 10-21 and conference record of 5-11 were both decreases from 2017, when the Panthers went 15-15 overall and 8-8 in the OVC.

The Panthers finished near the bottom of the conference in a number of offensive categories. They had the 10th most kills and assists in the OVC and eighth-most service aces.

Eastern fared better defensively. The team had the fourth-most blocks in the conference and led the OVC with 1,949 digs, despite playing the fourth-fewest sets.

Individually, five Eastern players appeared on OVC leaderboards last season. Senior Abby Knight finished ninth in the conference with a .264 hitting percentage.

One of Knight’s fellow seniors, Taylor Smith, finished ninth with a 27 percent service ace percentage. Smith also earned second team all-OVC honors last season and was named Female Senior Athlete of the Year by the Eastern athletic department.

Sophomore Laurel Bailey finished 10th in both kills and points and was the only Panther to finish in the top ten in either category.

Much like in the team statistics, the Panthers were higher up on the defensive leaderboards.

Junior Maggie Runge finished second in the OVC in blocks, averaging 1.03 blocks per set. Also finishing second, in digs, was redshirt-junior Anne Hughes, she averaged 5.12 digs per set.

Of these players, only Bailey and Runge will be back in 2019. Luckily for the Panthers, Bailey and Runge were the top two scorers on the team.

In fact, the Panthers will have their top three scorers back with Katie Sommer returning for her senior season in 2019.

Joining the team this season are six freshmen; Keelan Bell, Mackenzie Duvall, Sarah Paluch, Ireland Hieb, Joelle Laforce and Kristen Jankowski.

Eastern head coach Julie Allen spoke about the incoming class to the athletic department last November.

“I am excited about the 2019 signees,” Allen said. “These six student-athletes speak to the needs of the program athletically, as well as what we are trying to build.”

The Panthers will open the regular season with the EIU Panther Invitational on Aug. 30 and Aug. 31 at Lantz Arena. Eastern went 2-2 in the invitational last season, beating Iona in the third-place match.

Adam Tumino can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]