Panthers sweep Tigers Monday for 1st win

The+Eastern+volleyball+team+celebrates+on+the+court+Monday+afternoon+after+picking+up+their+first+win+of+the+season.+The+Panthers+swept+Tennessee+State%2C+winning+the+sets+by+scores+of+25-20%2C+25-23+and+25-23.+

Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News

The Eastern volleyball team celebrates on the court Monday afternoon after picking up their first win of the season. The Panthers swept Tennessee State, winning the sets by scores of 25-20, 25-23 and 25-23.

Adam Tumino, Editor-in-Chief

The Eastern volleyball team is winless no more.

The Panthers snapped a nine-match losing streak to begin the season with a sweep of Tennessee State Monday at home, marking their first win since November 2019.

It was also the first time the Panthers swept an opponent since October 2018.

Eastern head coach Sarah Thomas, in her first season with the Panthers, said she was proud of the team for getting the win, which was also her first victory as a college head coach.

“I’m very proud,” she said. “All of their hard work and their discipline and trust in our process, it just showed. And now to get this first win under our belt together shows them that what we’re building here is working. I couldn’t be more proud of all of them, because it took every single one of these girls to help us get there.”

As for the match itself, Eastern took the first set for the second-straight day against the Tigers. Senior outside hitter Laurel Bailey led the team with 6 kills in the set, setting the tone for what would be perhaps her best match of the season.

The difference between Sunday’s loss and the win Monday was how the Panthers performed in the second set.

On Sunday, Eastern was unable to keep the momentum going forward into set two, dropping it 25-16.

This was not the case Monday, as the Panthers took the closely-contested set 25-23.

They took set three by the same score, clinching the win on a service ace from freshman Elisavet Papageorgiou.

Bailey ended the match with a game-high 19 kills. This was two kills shy of her season-high set on Sunday, which she needed 5 sets to reach.

Bailey now ranks sixth in the OVC in both kills per set and points per set.

She said getting the first win of her final season was special.

“It just feels so good,” Bailey said. “In my senior season, it means a lot to finally have a win. Hopefully we can continue into next week, and we’re going to work hard this week in practice.”

Thomas said that Bailey’s leadership had been important this since, especially since Bailey is the only senior on the roster.

“She’s our only senior, so we look to her definitely as that go to player,” Thomas said. “She’s really stepped into that role and is embracing it, especially with it being her last season, she wants to end on a really high note and leave a good foundation for our program. She’s really bought into it.”

Bailey said that she took advantage of leadership opportunities this season knowing that she would be the most experienced player on the team.

“Being the only senior just kind of gives me a different perspective to help give my knowledge to the underclassmen and kind of leave my legacy to this program.”

It was not just Bailey that produced on offense for the Panthers Monday.

Junior Danielle Allen set a new career-high with 12 kills to finish second on the team.

Freshman libero Christina Martinez Mundo, who set a new season high with 27 digs Sunday, equaled that number in two fewer sets.

As a team, the Panthers won a total of five sets in the last two matches against Tennessee State. Last season, Eastern won just 5 total sets in 16 conference matches.

Eastern will be on the road for its next two matches March 14 and 15 against Murray State. Both matches will start at 6 p.m.

 

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