Panthers open season Sunday with loss


Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern senior outside hitter Laurel Bailey follows through on a kill attempt against Morehead State in the season opener Sunday afternoon. Bailey led all players with 15 kills in the game, which Eastern lost 3-1.

Adam Tumino, Editor-in-Chief

A shortened, conference-only season is underway for the Eastern Volleyball team as they faced Morehead State Sunday afternoon in Lantz Arena.

It was the first game for the Panthers in almost 15 months, and they fell to the Eagles 3-1.

There were several new faces seeing action for the Panthers, including head coach Sara Thomas, appearing in her first game as a head coach following a long wait.

She said that she was pleased with how the team performed, despite the loss.

“I’m so proud,” she said. “I feel like we battled. There’s a couple things we can clean up on our side, but the improvement and the composure that they had is what I’m the most proud of.”

Thomas also said that just being out on the court again was a lot of fun.

“It felt so good, and to not play against ourselves,” she said. “Its a nice kickoff too to be at home.”

The first two sets of the game were where the Panthers performed the best, dropping the first set 25-21 and winning the second set 25-18.

In those two sets, the Panthers scored more points than they did in all three sets in their matchup against Morehead State last season.

Winning the second set of the season was also notable, considering that Eastern lost its first 18 sets against conference opponents last season.

That slow start in conference play last season led the Panthers to finishing tied for the worst record in the OVC at 1-15. Morehead State was tied for the second-best record in conference play last season at 12-4.

Individually, Eastern was led in scoring by senior outside hitter Laurel Bailey and sophomore outside hitter Ireland Hieb with 17.5 points each. Bailey collected her points with a game-high 15 kills and added 5 block assists. Hieb’s points came via 11 kills, 6 service aces and 1 block assist.

Redshirt-junior Kylie Michael also had double-digit kills with 10 while junior setter Bailey Chandler had a game-high 31 assists.

Five freshmen saw playing time for Eastern. They were Christina Martinez Mundo, Ashley Sharkus, Emily Wilcox, Elisavet Papageorgiou and Kameryn Sillmon.

The Eagles were led in scoring by senior outside hitter Olivia Lohmeier with 13.5 points. This was below her average from last season, when she second in the OVC and seventh in the nation in scoring.

A unique wrinkle this season is that the OVC volleyball teams will be playing back-to-back games against the same opponents in the same location to reduce travel during the pandemic.

Thomas said that she thinks this can be a fun, albeit temporary, experience when it comes to game planning.

“It’s kind of exciting that we get the opportunity to play them right away without having to wait,” she said.

The Panthers and Eagles play again Monday at 3 p.m. in Lantz Arena.

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