OVC volleyball teams off to slow starts


Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News Eastern’s Kylie Michael lofts the ball over the net and a pair of South Dakota State players in the Panthers’ 3-1 loss to the Jackrabbits on Aug. 30. Michael finished with four points and a block in the match.

Adam Tumino, Volleyball Reporter

When the Eastern volleyball team began its season 0-3 over the weekend, they were not the only OVC team to struggle.

Eastern is among five winless teams in the conference. Murray State and Austin Peay are two of those teams, despite being picked to finish first and second in the conference in a preseason coaches’ poll.

Austin Peay’s three losses already has them within two losses of their total last season.

Overall, the 12 teams in the conference are a combined 9-28 so far with only two teams, Morehead State and Southern Illinois Edwardsville, posting winning records.

Wins and losses do not mean much until conference play begins at the end of the month. But the OVC’s winning percentage is down over 20 points from the end of last season, dropping from just over 46 percent to just over 24 percent.

It has only been one weekend, and only Eastern, Jacksonville State and Belmont have played at home so far. The teams will have plenty of time to shore things up before the games start really mattering.

Eastern, despite going winless, is in the top five in the OVC in every statistical category except opponent hitting percentage, in which the Panthers rank 10th.

The Panthers rank third in hitting percentage, service aces and digs, fourth in blocks and assists, and fifth in kills.

Three Eastern players were also nominated for the OVC weekly honors released on Sept. 2.

Senior Maggie Runge was nominated for both Offensive and Defensive Player of the Week, sophomore Bailey Chandler for Setter of the Week and freshman Ireland Hieb for Newcomer of the Week.

Hieb led the team over the weekend with 35.5 points, and Runge finished third on the team with 31 points.

Chandler’s 111 assists so far are the fourth-most in the OVC, and her average 10.09 assists per set rank third in the conference. Chandler also ranks 10th with .36 service aces per set.

The only other Eastern players on OVC leaderboards are sophomore Hannah Sieg and junior Madison Cunningham.

Sieg is tied for fourth in blocks, averaging one per set, and ranks seventh with her hitting percentage of .300.

Cunningham, who is fully taking on the role of libero this season, ranks seventh in digs with an average of four per set. Her 44 total digs are the sixth-most in the OVC.

As more games are played in the coming weeks, the OVC volleyball standings will start to take a more substantive shape.

It is unlikely that the conference as a whole will only win one out of every four games, as has been the case so far.

It is still very early in the season, and the conference record is the only one that really matters.

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