Panthers off to 3-0 start this season

Eastern+middle+hitter+Kameryn+Sillmon+%2814%29+and+outside+hitter+Danielle+Allen+%2819%29+jump+in+an+attempt+a+block+against+IUPUI+on+Aug.+27+in+Lantz+Arena.+Allen+led+the+team+with+14+kills+in+the+match%2C+which+Eastern+3-0.+

Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern

Eastern middle hitter Kameryn Sillmon (14) and outside hitter Danielle Allen (19) jump in an attempt a block against IUPUI on Aug. 27 in Lantz Arena. Allen led the team with 14 kills in the match, which Eastern 3-0.

Adam Tumino, Sports Editor

The Eastern volleyball team has already surpassed its win total from last season, and managed to do so in a little over 24 hours. 

After winning the season opener Friday against IUPUI, the Panthers picked up a pair of wins Saturday against Bellarmine and Chicago State to place first in the EIU Panthers Invitational.

This is the first three-match winning streak for the Panthers since 2017 and the first such streak to start a season since 2015. 

Head coach Sara Thomas, now in her second season with the team, said she was very pleased with the weekend results. 

“I couldn’t be more proud of our entire team,” she said. “We have a lot of depth, and everyone was ready to come on the court and we couldn’t do it without the whole team. We have a motto that’s called ’18 strong.’ There’s 18 players, and when you have back-to-back-to-back matches like that, it takes everybody.”

In the opener against IUPUI, the Panthers outhit the Jaguars in each set to get a 3-0 sweep. Eastern hit .292 in the match, recording 38 kills and 12 attack errors compared to IUPUI’s 26 kills and 15 errors. 

Senior outside hitter Danielle Allen led all players with 14 kills and made just 3 attack errors, recording a .423 hitting percentage, the highest in the match for players with 10 or more total attacks. 

Sophomore libero Christina Martinez Mundo had a game-high 16 digs while Parkland College transfer Summer Smith got a bulk of the time at setter, recording 25 assists in her first match as a Panther. 

The match Saturday afternoon with Bellarmine was the closest of the invitational for the Panthers, who won the final two sets after falling behind 2-1. 

Eastern was outhit in each of the first three sets, but recorded hitting percentages of .516 in the fourth set and .333 in the fifth set, winning them 25-16 and 15-7 respectively. 

Allen led the way again with 17 kills, followed by freshman outside hitter TaKenya Stafford with 14 kills in her first collegiate action. 

Martinez Mundo had 21 more digs and Smith added 35 assists, splitting time at setter senior Bailey Chandler who recorded 20 assists of her own. 

The Panthers took the court once again Saturday night, beating Chicago State 3-0.

Allen and senior middle hitter Kameryn Sillmon tied for the team lead with 8 kills apiece. Chandler and Smith had 18 and 16 kills respectively and Martinez Mundo had 14 more digs. 

Allen was named the tournament MVP and was named to the All-Tournament Team along with Martinez Mundo. 

Thomas said that the situation at the setter position will be fluid going forward, but she likes what both Smith and Chandler bring to the court. 

“Both Bailey (Chandler) and Summer (Smith) bring such a different type of dynamic that is beneficial for the team,” she said. “My focus, especially during this preseason, is just to continue to see what’s going to be best for the team at all positions. So it’s going to be maybe rotating different outsides and middles and setters and everybody, and that’s the beauty of having such a large roster now.”

Eastern’s next match will also be at home when they host Northern Illinois Thursday at 5 p.m. They will then travel to play Northern on the road Sept. 4. 

 

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