Conference play nearing for OVC volleyball

Eastern+libero+Lorraine+Perez+drops+to+a+knee+to+receive+a+serve+in+a+match+against+Indiana+State+on+Sunday+in+Lantz+Arena.+Perez+had+19+digs+and+2+service+aces+in+the+match%2C+which+Eastern+lost+3-1.

Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern libero Lorraine Perez drops to a knee to receive a serve in a match against Indiana State on Sunday in Lantz Arena. Perez had 19 digs and 2 service aces in the match, which Eastern lost 3-1.

Adam Tumino, Sports Editor

Conference season for the OVC volleyball teams in on the horizon. 

The first conference match will take place Tuesday night between Tennessee State and Belmont, two teams with very different levels of success in nonconference play. 

Tennessee State is in first place heading into conference competition with a record of 9-1. 

The Tigers’ lone loss came on Sept. 14 against a tough Evansville. The loss snapped a five-match winning streak to open the season. 

Five of Tennessee State’s eight losses have been in straight sets. The Tigers are leading the conference with a .234 hitting percentage and have also allowed the lowest opponent hitting percentage in the OVC at .147. 

They are also averaging 14.71 kills per set, ranking second in the conference. 

Senior middle blocker Aniya Williams has been one of the most prolific and most efficient offensive players in the conference. 

She ranks second in the conference in hitting percentage (.313) and fourth in kills per set (3.58) 

Senior libero Gina Rivera-Ortiz has been one of the top defensive players in the conference and in Tennessee State history throughout her career. She ranks third in the OVC this season with 5.68 digs per set and was just named OVC Defensive Player of the Week on Monday.

Belmont is entering conference play in the bottom of the standings with a record of 2-8. 

The Bruins actually opened the season 2-0 with wins against Alcorn State and North Alabama but have since lost eight in a row. Six of those losses have been in straight sets, including each of the last five. 

Belmont is hitting .152 as a team and allowing its opponents to hit .244, ranking ninth in the conference in both categories. The Bruins also rank ninth in kills per set with 10.91. 

Leading the Bruins offensively is junior outside hitter Laura Shoopman. She ranks ninth in the OVC with 2.90 kills per set. Sophomore libero Rachel McBride ranks fourth in the conference with 4.57 digs per set. 

The rest of the OVC begins conference play Friday. Belmont will host Tennessee-Martin and Tennessee State will host Southeast Missouri. 

Tennessee-Martin is just ahead of Belmont in the standings with a record of 3-9, but the Skyhawks will be entering conference play off of back-to-back wins against Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Memphis. 

They have a hitting percentage of just .137, the lowest in the OVC. Redshirt junior outside hitter Logan Wallick leads the team with 2.33 kills per set, ranking outside the top 10 in the conference. 

Southeast Missouri’s match with Tennessee State will be a matchup of the conference’s top teams in nonconference play. The Redhawks are 9-3 this season and rank in the top three in nearly every statistical category. 

They rank second in digs per set and third in blocks per set, assists per set, kills per set and hitting percentage. 

Senior outside hitter Laney Malloy is ranked third in the OVC with 4.02 kills per set and was named OVC Offensive Player of the Week on Monday. Her .243 hitting percentage ranks ninth. 

Senior setter Claire Ochs was named OVC Setter of the Week as well. She ranks second in the conference with 10.25 assists per set. 

Another match Friday will be between Austin Peay (6-6) and Morehead State (4-7). 

The Governors won their last match against Ohio to snap a three-match losing streak. They rank fourth in the OVC in hitting percentage and fifth in kills per set. Outside hitter Brooke Moore is eight in the OVC with 3.07 kills per set while right side Mikayla Powell ranks fifth with a hitting percentage of .254.

Morehead State had the best record in the OVC last season at 15-1. The Eagles have lost four of five matches coming into conference play. 

They are near the middle in most statistical categories, ranking seventh in hitting percentage and fourth in kills per set. 

Senior outside hitter Olivia Lohmeier continues to be one of the top offensive players in the OVC year after year, ranking second this season with 4.48 kills per set. 

Tennessee Tech (5-6) and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville (3-8) will also play Friday.

The Golden Eagles rank eighth in the conference in hitting percentage and sixth in kills per set. 

SIUE ranks sixth in the conference in hitting percentage but ranks last in kills per set with 10.40. 

The final match Friday will be between Eastern and Murray State.

The Panthers have dropped their last two matches, both to Indiana State, after starting nonconference play 7-1. 

They rank fifth in the OVC with a hitting percentage of .185 and have also allowed the fewest kills per set by their opponents, just 11.08 per set. 

Eastern leads the conference with 2.16 service aces per set. There are four Panthers in the top 10 in service aces per set. No other team has more than two. 

Senior outside hitter Danielle Allen ranks sixth with 3.37 kills per set and sophomore middle blocker Emily Wilcox leads the conference with a .346 hitting percentage. Liberos Christina Martinez Mundo and Lorraine Perez ranks fifth and seventh in digs per set respectively. 

Murray State is off to a 6-4 start and has been the top team in the OVC in kills per set with an average of 15.05, which is the highest mark in the nation. They also have two of the top individual performers in all of Division I volleyball this season. 

Freshman outside hitter Brooke Watts is leading the nation in kills per set with an average of 6.06. Senior libero Becca Fernandez ranks second in the nation with 6.26 digs per set. 

All of Friday’s matches will begin at 6 p.m. 

 

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