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The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

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Five takeaways after the Panthers leave EIU Panther Classic 3-0

Ashanti Thomas
The EIU volleyball team celebrate their 3-2 win at their home game against the Valparaiso Beacons Friday night in Lantz Arena.

Head Coach Sara Thomas and the Panthers close out the Panther Classic 3-0 in Lantz Arena.

The EIU Panther Classic started on Friday, Aug. 25 and concluded the following day.

Eastern beat all three teams in the EIU Panther Classic: University of Louisiana-Monroe (3-0), Valparaiso University (3-2) and The University of Akron (3-1).

Here are five takeaways from the Panthers’ performance throughout the tournament:

1. This is the second straight tournament hosted by the Panthers the team went 3-0.

Eastern did not host a tournament in 2022, but the school hosted the EIU Panther Invitational on Aug. 27 and Aug. 28, 2021.

The Panthers beat the IUPUI Jaguars (3-0), the Bellarmine Knights (3-2) and the Chicago State Cougars (3-0).

Thomas was only in her second season of coaching for the 2021 EIU Panther Invitational.

Before the 2021 Panther Invitational, the Panthers went 0-3 in the Panther Invitational on Aug. 30 and Aug. 31, 2019.

2. Graduate outside/opposite hitter Natalie Mitchem set a career-high of 25 kills against Valparaiso.

Mitchem’s previous record was 21 kills with the Ball State University Cardinals against the University of South Florida Bulls in 2019.

With the experience Mitchem has already had with multiple Division I schools, she knew that the Beacons would be a competitive team.

“I knew this was going to be a battle and we had to come at the top of our game,” Mitchem said.

Mitchem also ended the game with five blocks to help the Panthers beat the Beacons Friday evening.

3. Eastern went on an 11-0 run against Valparaiso.

At the beginning of the fifth set, the Panthers went on an 11-0 run against the Beacons.

“The preparation is everything we talk about in the preseason,” Thomas said after the 3-2 win over the Beacons.

Throughout the run, Mitchem had four kills, junior outside hitter/opposite Tori Mohesky had one kill and sophomore setter Catalina Rochaix had two service aces.

4. Setter Catalina Rochaix recorded more than 100 assists in a three-game span.

Rochaix recorded 139 assists throughout the EIU Panther Classic.

“Preparation was key for me,” Rochaix said. “I practice a lot and have a lot of individual meetings with the coaches, and I trust in my team a lot.”

Rochaix had 36 assists against ULM, 53 against Valparaiso and an additional 50 against Akron.

Rochaix led the team in assists in all three games.

“I’m so happy with how we played and how we practiced for this tournament,” Rochaix said after the 3-1 win against the Akron Zips. “I think we did a really great job, and I’m happy with my team.”

5. Defensive specialist/libero Christina Martinez Mundo led the Panthers with 70 digs within a three-game span.

The senior, Martinez Mundo, had 17 digs against ULM, 29 against Valparaiso and an additional 24 against Akron.

Two days before the tournament, Martinez Mundo said she felt excited about the EIU Panther Classic.

“I know we’re going to do a lot of good things because we’ve been putting in the work,” Martinez Mundo said during practice.

Martinez Mundo also had nine assists throughout the Panther Classic and three services aces, one for each game in the tournament.

“I never take wins for granted,” Thomas said after the third and final win of the Panther Classic. “Playing three games pretty much in 24 hours can not always be the easiest thing.”

Eastern’s first game against ULM started at 1 p.m. on Friday, and the Panthers played again against Valparaiso at 7 p.m. The Panthers played the next day against Akron at 2 p.m.

The Panthers are traveling to Indianapolis, IN to attend the IUPUI Hampton Inn Invite. Their first opponent is the Golden Eagles from Oral Roberts University. The game is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. at the IUPUI Gymnasium.

Zaria Flippin can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Zaria Flippin
Zaria Flippin, Sports Editor
Zaria Flippin is a junior sports media relations major. This is her first year at The News.
Ashanti Thomas
Ashanti Thomas, Photographer
Ashanti Thomas is a senior digital media major. She previously served as photo editor and assistant photo editor at The News.

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