OVC volleyball teams finding early success

Eastern+setter+Bailey+Chandler+gets+into+position+under+the+ball+in+a+match+against+Northern+Illinois+on+Sept.+2+in+Lantz+Arena.+Chandler+recorded+9+assists+and+a+service+ace+in+the+match%2C+which+Eastern+won+3-1.+

Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern setter Bailey Chandler gets into position under the ball in a match against Northern Illinois on Sept. 2 in Lantz Arena. Chandler recorded 9 assists and a service ace in the match, which Eastern won 3-1.

Adam Tumino, Sports Editor

As early-season, nonconference competition continues for the volleyball teams of the OVC, the conference as a whole is finding success.

The combined records of the teams to this point is 32-22, which is a winning percentage of nearly 60 percent. Eight of the conference’s 10 teams have records of .500 or better so far. 

With conference play set to begin in about two weeks, it is a good time to see how each OVC team is shaping up for the matches that truly matter. 

 

Tennessee State

The Tigers finished last season in ninth place, although the conference was two-teams larger last season. They posted a record of 4-12, and have already surpassed that win total, albeit in nonconference play. 

Tennessee State is 5-0 and has only dropped 2 sets this season. They have beaten Alcorn State 3-0, New Orleans 3-1, North Alabama 3-0, George Washington 3-0 and Bellarmine 3-1. 

As a team, the Tigers’ hitting percentage of .258 leads the OVC, as does their opponents hitting percentage of .123. They are also averaging 14.65 kills per set, ranking second in the conference behind Murray State. 

 

Eastern

After finishing in last place last season, the Panthers jumped out to their best start in 36 years in 2021. Their 4-0 start at home brought them to the top of the standings, but a 3-1 road loss to Northern Illinois dropped them from the top spot.

The Panthers beat IUPUI, Chicago State and Bellarmine as the hosts of the EIU Panther Invitational to start the season, before beating Northern in the first match of a home-and-away series with the Huskies. 

The Panthers are around the middle of the OVC in most statistical categories, but have allowed the fewest kills in the conference (10.16 per set) and have blocked at a lesser rate than the rest of the OVC (1.11 per set). Their 2 service aces per set also lead the conference.

 

Southeast Missouri and Austin Peay

The Redhawks and Governors are both 4-2 to start the season. Last season, Southeast Missouri was in third place at 14-2 while Austin Peay came in fifth with a record of 9-5.

Southeast Missouri has picked up wins against DePaul, Bradley, Central Michigan and Purdue Fort Wayne while losing to Western Michigan and Indiana. 

Austin Peay started the season 1-2, losing to Alabama in the opener, beating Miami-Ohio and then losing to Marshall. The Governors then won their next three matches against Merrimack, Harvard and Marist, all by 3-0 scores. 

Southeast Missouri has been the top blocking team in the conference, averaging 2.63 blocks per set so far. Austin Peay’s hitting percentage of .231 ranks second in the OVC. 

 

Belmont 

Belmont was 3-13 last season, finishing in 10th place. The Bruins have played just three matches so far this season, going 2-1 as the hosts of the Music City Invitational. They won back-to-back matches against Alcorn State and North Alabama to open the season before losing 3-1 against Indiana State. 

Belmont is in the middle of the pack in most statistical categories, but they do have a small sample size. 

 

Tennessee Tech

After finishing last season 9-7, the Golden Eagles opened the season on the road in Auburn, Alabama, in the War Eagle Invitational, losing their opener to Auburn before beating Jackson State 3-1. 

Tennessee Tech then went back home to host the Golden Eagle Invitational. They beat South Alabama 3-2, lost to Valparaiso 3-2 and then won the finale against UNC Asheville 3-0. 

The Golden Eagles are averaging 12.80 kills per set, ranking fifth in the OVC. 

 

Morehead State and Murray State

Morehead State is the top returning team in the OVC from last season, having posted a 15-1 record. Along with Murray State, which was 5-11 last year, Morehead State is 3-3. 

Morehead State opened the season 0-2 against stiff competition in the Classic City Clash in Athens, Georgia. They lost 3-0 to Georgia and No. 22 Pepperdine before bouncing back to beat Winthrop 3-1. 

They then hosted the Eagle Challenge, losing to Evansville before beating Cleveland State and Radford. 

Murray State started the season 3-1 before losing back-to-back matches against Arkansas State and Saint Louis. 

Murray State leads the OVC with 14.67 kills per set while Morehead State ranks third with 13.22 kills per set.

 

Southern Illinois-Edwardsville

The Cougars were 10-4 last season, finishing fourth in the OVC. So far this season, they are in ninth place at 2-4. 

They split their first two matches of the season, losing to Evansville and beating Purdue Fort Wayne, but then lost three-straight matches against Kent State, Xavier and Loyola Chicago before snapping the streak with a win against former OVC member Eastern Kentucky. 

The Cougars’ are averaging just 10.21 kills per set, the fewest in the OVC. 

 

Tennessee-Martin

The Skyhawks were 6-10 last season, and started off this season with a five-match losing streak. 

Their fourth and fifth losses in the streak were both 3-2 defeats, and they finally broke through for a 3-0 win against Alabama A&M. 

The Skyhawks rank last in the OVC with a hitting percentage of .132 while their opponents are hitting .244, the second-highest mark in the conference.  

 

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