Eastern volleyball picks up 1st conference win


Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News

The Eastern volleyball team celebrates a 39-37 win in the first set against Tennessee Tech on Oct. 18. The Panthers won the match in five sets, earning their first conference win of the season.

Adam Tumino, Volleyball Reporter

The Eastern volleyball team snapped a six-match losing streak to begin conference play in dramatic fashion, beating Tennessee Tech in five sets in Lantz Arena.

The Panthers entered the match having not won a single set against OVC opponents this season before winning the first set against the Golden Eagles 39-37, Eastern’s longest set of the season by far.

After winning sets three and five, the Panthers celebrated a victory on their home court for the first time since Oct. 20, 2018.

“That was really amazing,” Eastern head coach Julie Allen said. “I’m really proud of the players for fighting through the hard times.”

In the first set, Eastern fell behind 14-4 before going on a 13-3 run to tie the score for the first time in the match. The score would be tied 20 more times before back-to-back kills by Ireland Hieb sealed the set for the Panthers.

Allen said that she was proud of the team’s ability to focus to come back from the early deficit and to maintain that focus.

“We definitely dug ourselves a little bit of a hole,” Allen said. “I’m really proud of them for fighting for one ball. We talk about one ball at a time, and hopefully we can catch back up.”

Eastern redshirt sophomore Kylie Michael led the team with seven points in the first set on her way to career highs in both kills (13) and points (18). Her 18 points also led the team.

Michael said, during the elongated opening set, she just wanted to keep the ball in play to give her and her teammates chances to make plays.

“You don’t want to let any ball fall because you want to keep your teammates up and you want to keep going for them,” Michael said. “No matter what, even if it’s one pass, just trying to keep it up so play can keep going and the game can keep going.”

Senior Maggie Runge, who led the team with 17 kills and finished second with 17.5 points, said that it can be stressful playing in long sets, but she still enjoys them.

“I don’t want to know the score, I just want to play,” Runge said. “There is a point that when it keeps going back-and-forth that you’re like, ‘Damn, this is a first set?’ It’s really fun, though. It’s really nerve-racking but those nerves kind of get you going and get you excited for the rest of the game.”

Runge ended the match with a kill, giving the Panthers a 15-11 set-five win. She had seven kills in the fifth set alone. The entire Tennessee Tech team recorded eight kills in the set.

“If I felt like the ball was there, I felt like the set was there, I was going to put it away,” Runge said. “If I didn’t feel like it was somewhere where I could just smash it, I was going to go up and throw it somewhere they weren’t.”

Runge credited work in practice and a solid performance from setter Bailey Chandler for the high number of kills. Chandler had 52 assists in the match, her highest total this season.

The Panthers have a quick turnaround. They play OVC co-leaders Jacksonville State Saturday at 2 p.m. Until then, they can savor their first conference win.

“It feels so good,” Michael said. “Being out there, and just hugging and embracing each other is so much fun, especially with our team working so hard throughout the entire season. We’ve had bumps on the road, but getting the first conference win, in five especially, is so great.”


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