Volleyball team to play No. 25 Fighting Illini at home


Rob Le Cates

Kaitlyn Flynn, a sophomore outside hitter, spikes the ball during volleyball practice Tuesday afternoon at Lantz Arena .

Autumn Schulz, Sports Editor

The Eastern volleyball team will take on No.25 Illinois for its second home game of the season Wednesday at 7 p.m.  

The Panthers are coming off a 3-0 weekend at the Geri Polvino Invitational where sophomore outside hitter Kaitlyn Flynn posted 63 kills with a career high of 29 kills coming against Eastern Kentucky. 

Flynn also set the new four set record, which was set in 2004, with 86 attack attempts. Her performance not only earned her Invitational MVP, but she also was named OVC Offensive Player of the Week. 

Flynn said that she has been pushed by the Panther volleyball program to become the player that she is this season. 

“I’m really thankful to be around my teammates and coaches because I feel like they’ve pushed me this season and last season to really better myself playing volleyball,” Flynn said. “So, I’m really thankful and excited to start the season out.” 

Junior libero Christina Martinez Mundo is also finding great success this season. Mundo is second in the OVC for digs, averaging 5.47 per set. She is also second in the OVC in total digs with 208. In the last four matches, Mundo posted 91 digs. 

Nationally, Mundo ranks fourth in total digs and eighth in digs per set. Mundo said that her achievements motivate her to lead her team to the conference championship in November. 

“It feels really good, but it keeps me humble, though. I don’t want to make so much about it, but it motivates me to keep leading my team and getting more wins,” Mundo said. “That’s all you want to do, get to that conference tournament and it just motivates me. I don’t want to brag about it or anything because these girls make me better, so that’s why I’m there.” 

Coach Sara Thomas said the individual achievements during the Invitational were a team effort. 

“I thought it was a great showing of resiliency from Wednesday’s game. It shows that one game doesn’t define how we are as a program and that it was a whole team effort,” Thomas said. “Yes, individuals had success, you know Caitlyn Flynn was MVP, Christina Matinez and Annika Black were also player of the games. Christina was also on the All-Tournament team, but it took the whole team to get there. What I loved most was seeing them execute our system. We talked about, hey, if you’re super disciplined with the offense and defensive system that we run, anything can happen, and that’s what showed this past weekend.” 

Mundo said that seeing Flynn succeed over the weekend was great. 

“Man, it was awesome, especially because like I know what happened last year like not playing so much and then stepping up this year,” Flynn said. “It’s just great to see her growth and how far she’s come and how mature she is now on the court. It’s awesome seeing that part of volleyball because it’s all about like, not what you see in there, it’s like what do you see also outside the court.”  

The Fighting Illini are currently 4-3 on the season and are ranked No. 25 in the AVCA coaches poll. They are coming off a 3-0 weekend at the Dayton Invitational. 

Raina Terry leads the Fighting Illini offense with 87 kills with an average of 3.63 per set. Jessica Nunge has 70 kills in seven matches. Diana Brown has a total of 247 assists, putting her at 41st in the country in assists per set.  

Thomas said that the key to winning against the Fighting Illini is to simply be all in for the Panthers. 

“Being really consistent when we’re in games, with our training, consistency of the things that we do for our home matches versus away matches and the mentality of making sure that everybody is and continues to be all in for it,” Thomas said. “That’s what really, it’s going to be all season long, not just one game, one weekend tournament. It’s how can we continue to get 1% better as a team.” 

Mundo said that the fact that the Fighting Illini are ranked does not make the Panthers afraid. 

“Yeah, the fact that they are a ranked opponent and yeah, it’s kind of like a big deal, but for is, we know we have a really good chance if we just play Panther volleyball,” Mundo said. “We’ve watched film and then we’ve like, identified some weaknesses that we can take advantage of. So, definitely we’re the underdog, they’re ranked 25th in the nation, but that doesn’t scare us at all.” 

Flynn said that the team is looking forward to taking on a ranked opponent like the Fighting Illini. 

“We’re all super excited. We’ve been working on having a winning mentality, like when we’re winning and realize that we’re winning and just keep that mentality so it can really push us for the rest of the season and especially against Illinois being a ranked opponent. We’re super excited and ready to kick some butt.”  

 Autumn Schulz can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]