Panthers head to SIU for weekend matches


Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern defensive specialist Ashley Sharkus (16) prepares to serve against Northern Illinois on Sept. 2 as some of her teammates do a shark cheer from the bench. Sharkus had 3 service aces in the match, which Eastern won 3-1.

Adam Tumino, Sports Editor

The Eastern volleyball team is looking to rebound from its first loss of the season last weekend, and they will attempt to do so on the road in the Southern Illinois Saluki Tournament. 

The Panthers will travel to Carbondale for a pair of matches Friday and a finale Saturday. 

The tournament constitutes the middle of a stretch of five-straight road matches after four-consecutive home matches to open the season for Eastern. 

The Panthers open the tournament Friday at noon against host Southern Illinois. 

This will be the 15th regular season matchup between the Panthers and Salukis, and the first one since 2004. Eastern won that most recent match but is 4-10 all time against Southern Illinois. The two teams most recently played an exhibition prior to the 2018 season, with Eastern winning 3-0. 

The Salukis were 2-18 overall last season and 1-17 in conference play. They are off to a 3-4 start this season. 

They opened the season in the Southern Miss Tournament, losing the first two matches against Louisiana-Lafayette and Southern Mississippi before beating Mississippi Valley State 3-0. 

Southern Illinois then hosted the Saluki Bash, winning the first two matches against Alabama A&M and Tennessee-Martin before losing the finale to Oral Roberts. They then hosted a standalone match against Saint Louis, losing 3-0. 

By the end of the Saluki Invitational, Southern Illinois will have played seven home matches in a row. They are hitting .212 as a team while holding their opponents to a .198 hitting percentage. 

They are led by junior outside hitter Nataly Garcia, who is averaging 2.92 kills per set this season. Senior defensive specialist Katy Kluge leads the team with 4.16 digs per set. 

Eastern will play its second match of the invitational at 4 p.m. against Alabama State in the first ever matchup for the two programs. 

The Hornets are still searching for their first win of the season after an 0-6 start. They did not play last year, but back in 2019 were 17-22 overall and 11-7 in conference play. 

They opened the season in the Jacksonville State Tournament, losing 3-0 against Middle Tennessee and Jacksonville State before winning their first set of the season against Gardner-Webb in a 3-1 loss. 

The Hornets then played in the Fairfield Inn and Suites Dunn Campbell Invitational. Like in the previous tournament, they lost the first two matches 3-0 to James Madison and North Carolina Central before losing 3-1 against Campbell. 

Alabama State is hitting just .080 this season while their opponents have been very efficient, hitting a combined .283.

The Hornets’ top offensive player has been junior middle blocker Kalysia Bates, who is averaging 19.5 kills per set with a .350 hitting percentage. She is coming off her best match of the season, a 14-kill effort in the 3-1 loss against Campbell.

Saturday’s match for Eastern will be against South Carolina Upstate, and it will be the first ever matchup between these teams as well. 

The Spartans are off to a 1-5 start this season. They played 14 conference matches last season, going 7-7. 

This season, like Southern Illinois, they opened in the Southern Miss Classic. The Spartans won their opening match against Mississippi Valley State 3-0. A five-match losing streak followed for the Spartans with the last four losses being 3-0 defeats. 

Their first two losses game against Louisiana-Lafayette and Southern Mississippi. They then participated in the FGCU Tournament, losing to Florida A&M, Florida International and Florida Gulf Coast. 

The Spartans are being outhit this season .242-.143 this season. They are averaging 11 kills per set and allowing 12.7 kills per set. 

Senior outside hitter Kelly Wiedermann leads the team with 3.16 kills per set while hitting .132. Senior libero Mackenzie Marcum is averaging 4.67 digs per set to lead the team. 


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