Volleyball spring match brings excitement for fall season


Han Byer

The volleyball team plays a scrimmage game against Illinois State in Lantz Arena on Saturday evening.

Autumn Schulz, Sports Editor

The Eastern volleyball team hosted its indoor spring match last Saturday against Illinois State, sweeping them in three sets in Lantz Arena.

The Panthers won the first two sets 25-22 and then the last set 25-23.

The spring matches have given the Panthers a chance to show what they are capable of in the fall while simultaneously playing beach volleyball.

Coach Sara Thomas, when asked if the sweep against Illinois State was a good showing of what her team will look like come fall, was all positive.

“I hope so,” Thomas said with a smile. “Like definitely the things that we’re working on. We’re getting better at and then still definitely things that we can keep improving.”

Last fall, the Panthers posted a 16-16 overall record and a 10-8 record in Ohio Valley Conference play, which was their most wins in a season since 2015.

The Panthers also had 1,483 kills and 1,374 assists, which has not happened since the 2015 season. Giovana Larregui Lopez also took home OVC Volleyball Player of the Year.

The Panthers had two spring matches before their home match. They traveled to Parkland College and then played the Redbirds on their home turf in early March.

Thomas said that she and the team enjoyed the fact that it was a lowkey scrimmage.

“We were all super excited to be back home, you know, and that we had some fans so that was really cool because it was just, you know, you notice that we did not have refs,” Thomas said.

The 10 Panthers on the volleyball roster also play beach volleyball. They are currently 2-5 overall and 1-4 in conference play. This season, the Panthers picked up both their first win in program history and their first OVC win in program history.

Thomas, when asked how does beach volleyball help her team prepare for the regular season laughed, saying “where do I start?”

“Shot placement, strategy,” Thomas said. “I believe it’s helping them see the shots, balance support better. I thought that we were looking strong, like we’re hitting the ball really hard. Defensively, we’re picking up a lot of balls which I believe beach has helped that transfer.”

At the conclusion of last season, the Panthers lost three seniors: setter Summerlyn Smith, opposite hitter Annika Black, and middle blocker Ireland Hieb.

Thomas said that the recruiting class announcement will be soon. According to the EIU volleyball Instagram, Thomas and her recruiting team have traveled to St. Louis, Mo and Kansas City, Mo.

“Well, we’ll be announcing in a couple of weeks, our recruiting class but I’ll just say I’m very excited for them to be joining our team,” Thomas said.

Former associate volleyball head coach Manolo Concepcion was hired as an assistant coach at the University of Washington. Since then, Thomas has announced the hiring of Cole Aiazzi who will take Concepcion’s place and serve as the recruiting coordinator.

Aiazzi was the associate head coach at Montana State for six seasons before joining the Panther volleyball program.


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