Panthers fall to Cougars in OVC home opener

Eastern+libero+Christina+Martinez+Mundo+%28right%29+receives+a+serve+in+a+match+against+Southern+Illinois-Edwardsville+on+Oct.+5+in+Lantz+Arena.+Martinez+Mundo+had+a+game-high+19+digs+in+the+match%2C+which+Eastern+lost+3-1.+

Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern libero Christina Martinez Mundo (right) receives a serve in a match against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville on Oct. 5 in Lantz Arena. Martinez Mundo had a game-high 19 digs in the match, which Eastern lost 3-1.

Adam Tumino, Sports Editor

The Eastern volleyball team took the floor in Lantz Arena Tuesday evening in search of their first win in OVC play. 

After winning the first set against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, the Panthers dropped each of the next three sets, falling to the Cougars 3-1. 

Eastern head coach Sara Thomas said that the result of the match really came down to one thing: Eastern’s serve receive game. 

“That is something that we are working on every day in practice to improve our players in that skill, but also to have them have a big understanding of their responsibility within that serve receive line,” she said. “It’s definitely something that will be ongoing all season and next season.” 

Thomas also said that since everything starts with serving and receiving, it can be difficult to get anything else going.

“Serve and pass game is the number one priority for us,” she said,” because without it, our attackers can’t swing.”

The Panther attackers were able to swing in the first set Tuesday. 

Eastern outhit the Cougars .217 to .179 and at one point led 20-15. 

SIUE went on a 6-0 run at that point to take a 1-point lead, but Eastern closed out the set on a 5-1 run to win.

Eastern continued its hot streak to open the second set, jumping out to a 4-1 lead. 

But the Cougars quickly climbed ahead, going on an 11-3 run to take Eastern was able to get back within 3 points later on in the set, but SIUE pulled ahead to win the set 25-18. 

The third set unfolded in similar fashion, this time with Eastern jumping out to a 4-0 lead, and even led 10-5 at one point, before the Cougars pulled ahead and once again won the set 25-18. 

The Panthers also led 4-1 in the fourth set, which was more of a back-and-forth affair than the two previous sets. 

The score was tied at 14 before the Cougars pulled ahead 21-17. Eastern was able to cut the Cougars’ lead to 22-20 before SIUE closed out a 25-22 win to clinch the match. 

Thomas said that the bottom line in the match went back to the serve receive, making it difficult for the Panthers to stop SIUE’s scoring runs or establishing any extended runs of their own. 

“I think that the rest of our game was on point, but if we can’t pass the ball it’s going to be really hard to be able to get an earned point,” she said. “We’re going to just get back in the gym tomorrow for SEMO this weekend and get better every day.”

Eastern was led in the match by outside hitters Ella Collins and Danielle Allen with 13 and 12 kills respectively. Collins hit .333 in the match while Allen hit .318. 

Libero Christina Martinez Mundo led all players with 19 digs in the match. 

The Cougars were led by middle blocker Savannah Christian with a game-high 15 kills. She hit .542 in the match, which also led all players. 

Eastern will be back in action at home this weekend for a pair of matches against Southeast Missouri. 

The Panthers and Redhawks will play on Friday at 6 p.m. and once again Saturday at 4 p.m.

 

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