Volleyball team now tied for third in OVC after defeating Southern Indiana 3-0


Han Byer

Outside hitter, Giovana Larregui Lopez (15) jumps up to spike the ball against University of Southern Indiana at Lantz Arena. The Panthers won 3-0.

Autumn Schulz, Sports Editor

Bittersweet was the feeling that came over Lantz Arena Wednesday night.

The Eastern volleyball team completed the sweep of Southern Indiana in three sets but as some players stepped off the court, they realized it was their last time doing so as a Panther, ever.

Senior outside hitter Annika Black could not fight back the tears as the Panthers came together for a celebratory group hug.

“My emotions got the best of me after I stepped off the court for the last time,” Black said. “Luckily, I ended on a good note, I ended with a nice kill, but it definitely was a little eye opening. The tears started coming in right away.”

The Panthers may have swept the Screaming Eagles in three sets but there were seven lead changes and 17 ties, including 14 ties in the third set.

The second set was tied three times before the Panthers were able to pull away.

The Panthers had a 20-19 advantage after senior middle blocker Ireland Hieb had a kill down the middle. Right after, junior libero Christina Martinez Mundo was on the floor, and she came up with the dig, which gave Black the chance to smash it down on the right side.

A service ace by sophomore outside hitter Kaitlyn Flynn and two kills on the left side by junior outside hitter Giovana Larregui Lopez helped seal the 25-20 win for the Panthers.

Junior defensive specialist Ashley Sharkus said that the Panthers were able to rally together because no one felt individually pressured.

“I think our team plays better when we are loose and calm, and I think that it got a little hectic in that second set, but we were able to all come together as a team and work through it together. We knew we weren’t out there alone and doing it by ourselves.”

The third set saw the Screaming Eagles jump out to a 4-1 advantage before the Panthers could rally together and tie the set for the first time of fourteen after a service ace by Sharkus.

The Panthers had a 17-14 advantage but a series of errors and a lapse in defense allowed the Screaming Eagles to tie the match 19-19.

On a back set from Mundo, Lopez was able to kill the ball, tying the set at 21-21.

Libero, Christina Martinez Mundo (4), jumps and stretches out backwards to set the ball against University of Southern Indiana at Lantz Arena. The Panthers won 3-0. (Han Byer)

The set tied one last time at 22-22 before three consecutive kills from Lopez secured the sweep for the Panthers 25-22.

Mundo said that practicing intense situations gave the Panthers the ability to stay focused.

“I never doubted it at all,” Mundo said. “Like, even if they were up at one point, I knew we were going to win because we’ve practiced for so long. Like, staying in the moment and not worrying about the outcome, just worrying about the process.”

Lopez finished the match tying her career high with 26 kills. In the last two matches, Lopez has had 20 or more kills. This season, Lopez leads the Panthers with 359 kills. Flynn is right behind her with 353.

Mundo said that Lopez is the player the Panthers look to in their time of need.

“Oh, she just makes us so confident man, and it’s just knowing that we can rely on her because she’s that type of player that’s gonna put the ball down when we need her the most,” Mundo said. “It’s just great to have someone like that because it gives you so much sureness and you’re so confident in what they can do.”

The Panthers will wrap up the regular season in Lindenwood starting on Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 7 p.m. before the OVC Tournament on Nov. 17.

As of right now, the Panthers are tied for third place with a 9-7 conference record.

Hieb said that the two matches at Lindenwood will be the boost the team needs before going into postseason play.

“I think it’s gonna be a big confidence booster, even after this game, too,” Hieb said. “Especially after the win today, going into those two games and having the mindset of like, we can win, we can do this, like this is what the outcome is going to be. Especially going into the tournament, it’s gonna be really important, like lots of energy.”

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