Murray State, Austin Peay atop OVC volleyball standings

Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News
Hannah Siege goes up for a kill in Eastern’s 3-0 loss to Austin Peay on Saturday at Lantz Arena.

Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News Hannah Siege goes up for a kill in Eastern’s 3-0 loss to Austin Peay on Saturday at Lantz Arena.

Adam Tumino, Volleyball Reporter

If there needed to be more proof that preseason play does not matter, the OVC volleyball standings have provided it.

After relatively struggling through non-conference play, 2018 standouts Murray State (8-6, 2-0) and Austin Peay (4-12, 2-0) sit atop the standings through the first week of the conference season.

Joining these two teams at the top is Morehead State (11-3, 2-0), last season’s third-place finisher. The Eagles did not struggle in non-conference play, going 9-3 against teams outside of the OVC.

Tennessee State (9-7, 2-1) is the only other team to win twice in conference play so far. Two OVC teams are winless in the conference.

Eastern (1-14, 0-3) and Belmont (1-17, 0-3) are bringing up the rear a season after tying for ninth in the OVC.

Two of Eastern’s losses came against Murray State and Austin Peay, both in straight sets despite a number of close scores. The Panthers’ match Wednesday against Southern Illinois Edwardsville (6-9, 1-2) was not nearly as close. The Cougars beat Eastern 25-7, 25-20 and 25-16.

Eastern is the only OVC team to not win a set so far in conference play and will play Belmont on the road Saturday, leaving only one winless OVC team.

Despite their records, Eastern and Belmont have several players on OVC leaderboards in multiple categories.

Three Eastern players rank sixth in different categories. Maggie Runge is sixth in hitting percentage (.302), Bailey Chandler is sixth in assists (8.31 per set) and Madison Cunningham is sixth in digs (4.36 per set).

Halee Van Poppel is Belmont’s most productive offensive player, ranking seventh in the conference in kills and eighth in assists.

Murray State’s Rachel Giustino and Morehead State’s Olivia Lohmeier continue to lead the conference in both kills and points, as has been the case most of the season.

Giustino’s teammate, libero Becca Fernandez, moved into the top spot in digs after averaging 7.67 digs per set in the Racers’ first two conference matches. She was named OVC Defensive Player of the Week for her efforts.

The offensive player of the week was sophomore Lena Kindermann of Jacksonville State. A native of Germany, Kindermann had 34 kills in the Gamecocks’ weekend matches and leads the OVC this season with a .350 hitting percentage.

Besides Eastern and Belmont, there are a number of other matchups to watch this week.

Murray State and Austin Peay both have a pair of potentially tough matches on Friday and Saturday. The Racers will play against Tennessee-Martin (5-11, 1-1) and Southeast Missouri (9-7, 1-1). The Governors will play both teams as well, but in the opposite order.

Southeast Missouri is third in the OVC in hitting percentage and blocks this season. The Redhawks have two players in the top seven in blocks per set this season. Talia Gouard ranks second with 1.23 and Krista Berns ranks seventh with 1.

Southeast Missouri is one of just three OVC teams to have two players in the top seven in any statistical category.

Tennessee Tech (5-10, 1-1) and Jacksonville State (7-7, 1-1) will both be at home this weekend to play Morehead State. Tennessee Tech will be up first as they attempt to end Morehead State’s five-match winning streak.

Once the second week of conference play wraps up, the standings will of course be more salient.

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