Eastern volleyball team denied first win in 5-set thriller

Adam+Tumino+%7C+The+Daily+Eastern+News%0AEastern+sophomore+Hannah+Sieg+%2817%29+goes+up+to+kill+a+set+from+Bailey+Chandler+%289%29+in+the+Panthers%27+3-2+loss+to+Evansville+on+Sept.+14.+Sieg+had+9.5+points+in+the+match.+
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Eastern volleyball team denied first win in 5-set thriller

Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News
Eastern sophomore Hannah Sieg (17) goes up to kill a set from Bailey Chandler (9) in the Panthers' 3-2 loss to Evansville on Sept. 14. Sieg had 9.5 points in the match.

Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News Eastern sophomore Hannah Sieg (17) goes up to kill a set from Bailey Chandler (9) in the Panthers' 3-2 loss to Evansville on Sept. 14. Sieg had 9.5 points in the match.

Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News Eastern sophomore Hannah Sieg (17) goes up to kill a set from Bailey Chandler (9) in the Panthers' 3-2 loss to Evansville on Sept. 14. Sieg had 9.5 points in the match.

Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News Eastern sophomore Hannah Sieg (17) goes up to kill a set from Bailey Chandler (9) in the Panthers' 3-2 loss to Evansville on Sept. 14. Sieg had 9.5 points in the match.

Adam Tumino, Volleyball Reporter

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For the first time this season, the Eastern volleyball team was within one point of its first win. The Panthers pushed Evansville to a decisive fifth set and led the Purple Aces 14-10.

But Evansville persisted, pushing the set beyond regulation to earn a 17-15 victory on Saturday night. It was the third set that went further than regulation scoring in what was the Panthers closest match of the season, as well as their highest-scoring.

The match also served as a bounce-back performance following their worst match of the season on Saturday morning, a 3-1 loss to Fort Wayne in which the Panthers were outscored by 28 points, including a 25-9 defeat in the third set.

Eastern head coach Julie Allen said that she was happy with the team’s performance against Evansville.

“It was a total change from the morning match to (the Evansville match). We had 100 percent give from every player,” she said. “The grit that they had, the tenacity just to go out and hit the ball hard every time is exciting. It means they’re growing and believing in themselves and their team.”

Evansville’s hard-hitting, and sometime erratic, style of play posed a challenge for Eastern. The Purple Aces 228 total attacks were the most Eastern had seen this season. Evansville had 37 total errors, which was also the most by an Eastern opponent in 2019.

“I think you have to be diligent with your own blocking and defense,” Allen said. “Don’t let a crazy, hard-hit ball that is going out of bounds be touched. They hit hard but its unpredictable because they were not in control of it.”

Eastern libero Madison Cunningham had a career-high 37 digs in the match while facing down the Evansville attackers, 18 more than her previous career high. She said that when facing a free-swinging team, it is best to trust her reactions.

“In that type of case, I just don’t think. I only think ‘ball off the ground,’” she said. “It’s like that balloon game you play as a kid. It honestly helps me to stay out of my head.”

Cunningham also credited her blockers with helping make her job easier. The Panthers posted a season-high 15 blocks in the match and senior Maggie Runge tied a career-high with nine blocks.

“We’ve always been a blocking-oriented team I feel like, even from my freshman year,” Runge said. “We just go up and get the ball and take it down, and if it goes it goes. It makes it a lot easier on our defense.”

The Panthers will be on the road on Sept. 20 and 21 in the Youngstown State Red and White Invitational, their last three non-conference matches before returning home for OVC play on Sept. 27 and 28.

Although the team remains win less on the season, Runge and Cunningham see more improvements coming soon.

“It’s another baby step to getting to where we need to be,” Runge said. “We’ll just keep working and keep going 100 percent and believing in each other. We’ll get there.”

“Our team keeps raising the bar,” Cunningham said. “We keep holding each other accountable. We’re going to get there, but it’s a process. I’m proud of the way we played.”

 

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