Panthers to wrap up non-conference play over weekend

Adam Tumino, Volleyball Reporter

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Coming off its closest match of the season, a 3-2 loss to Evansville Sept. 14, the Eastern volleyball team (0-9) heads into its final three non-conference matches at the Youngstown State Red and White Invitational.

The trip to Youngstown, Ohio, is the longest one of the season for the Panthers, since Jacksonville State will be traveling to Eastern this year.

The Panthers will play a rematch with Central Michigan (7-2) Friday at 10 a.m. and then play host Youngstown State (4-6) at 5:30 p.m.

Eastern also plays at 10 a.m. Saturday against Robert Morris (10-0).

In their final match of the Evansville Dunn Hospitality Tournament, the Panthers were the closest they have been to their first win, leading 14-10 in the fifth set.

Head coach Julie Allen said the team is working on the details that may have let them down in that match and others.

“It was in our hands, but we let go of some details that we’ve got to hammer home,” Allen said. “We’re constantly trying to watch our own film and get better. What you see a lot in practice right now is trying to keep developing our team to fight, have that grit and push through those last few points.”

Allen said one way they can practice this is by focusing on situational play.

“We’re putting (the team) in situations where their back is against the wall and they’re having to push and finish,” she said. “If they don’t, we just reset the game again until we get it right and feel comfortable doing it over and over again.”

Finishing is something that Central Michigan was able to do in its previous matchup with Eastern Sept. 6. The Chippewas beat the Panthers in straight sets 25-20, 25-21 and 25-21.

Allen said the opportunity to play the same non-conference opponent twice in a season can be helpful to measure the team’s growth, but that measurement may be limited since the first match was so recent.

“With just two weeks, you are going to see some changes, but its not going to be as dramatic as if we played them the first weekend and the last,” Allen said.

Eastern will open up OVC play Sept. 27 and 28 in Lantz Arena against Murray State (5-4) and Austin Peay (1-9), the two best teams in the conference last season.

Last season, Eastern lost to Austin Peay 3-0 on Oct. 5 and 3-1 on Nov. 10.

The Panthers also lost twice to Murray State, dropping matches on Oct. 6 and Nov. 9. Both losses were in straight sets.

 

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