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

The Daily Eastern News

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

The Daily Eastern News

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

The Daily Eastern News


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Four Panthers earn top 75 in the nation

From left, sophomore setter Catalina Rochaix and senior outside hitter Giovana Larregui López celebrate after scoring a point against Morehead State Thursday evening. Rochaix led the team with 34 assists and had two digs. López led the Panthers with 13 kills and 15 points. (Rob Le Cates)

Over the weekend Eastern volleyball was able to sweep Morehead State University, which puts them at 16-1 on the season which is the best start in program history.

The Panthers are also 6-0 in Ohio Valley Conference play which is their best start since 2005 when they won nine straight game to begin conference play.

Four players on the team are in the top 75 in nation in four different categories.

Senior outside hitter Giovana Larregui López is tied for sixth in the nation in aces per set with 0.62, 47th in points per set with 4.47, and is tied for 74th with graduate outside hitter Natalie Mitchem in kills per set with 3.67.

Senior defensive specialist Christiana Martinez Mundo is fifth in the nation in digs per set with 5.69. Sophomore setter Catalina Rochaix is 21st in the nation in assists per set with 10.57.

In the OVC Larregui López and Mitchem both lead in kills per set. Mitchem is also third in the OVC in points per set with 4.12. Larregui López also leads the OVC in aces per set and in points per set.

Rochaix leads the OVC in assists per set, and freshman middle blocker Julia Stanev leads the OVC in blocks per set with 1.16. Martinez Mundo is second in the OVC in digs per set.

The Panthers as a team are second in the nation in aces per set with 2.39, 17th in opponent hitting percentage with 15.6%, 18th in hitting percentage with 27.6%, 30th in assists per set with 12.62, and 37th in kills per set with 13.49.

In the OVC the Panthers are first in assists per set, kills per set, aces per set, points per set (17.80), hitting percentage, opponent hitting percentage, opponent assists per set (9.59), opponent kills per set (10.43), opponent blocks per set (1.80), and opponent digs per set (12.25).

Eastern and Morehead State have quite a bit of competitive history. Coming into Thursdays match, the Panthers had lost seven straight games to the Eagles.

Head Coach Sara Thomas spoke on how it felt finally getting a win on Morehead State.

“You never take any win for granted, it is a remarkable feeling that our players are getting better and better, year after year,” Thomas said.

These two wins chipped away at the all-time series, now set at 21-23 Morehead.

The win on Friday tied the Panthers with their win total of last season, which is tied for the fourth most wins since 2000. If the Panthers get one more win, they will be their most wins since 2013.

Thomas said that a large part of the success comes from emphasis on passing and serving.

“Because I’m learning systems that’s just going to help Cati or Sylvie, our attackers, so that’s always been our answer,” Thomas said.

Stanev also had 11 blocks combined Thursday and Friday including a season-high of seven on Friday. That brings her season total to 59.

Freshman libero/defensive specialist Masyn Navarro imitates riding a bike during a challenge call during the volleyball game against Morehead State Thursday evening. (Rob Le Cates)

Stanev said that playing for Eastern is very different for her because she used to play in Europe.

“The American conference is very difficult because we play like two matches in a row, like two games,” said Stanev. “But I’m getting used to it, I love it. I love the atmosphere in the team.”

One important set for Eastern was the third set of the Friday match. The set was tied five times before a Morehead State timeout gave the Panthers time to adjust. After this timeout, Eastern put up four unanswered points, pulling away from Morehead State. The Panthers completed the sweep with a final score of 25-20 in the last set.

Eastern’s players talked about locking in and focusing on the moment during that third set timeout.

“We talked about winning every moment and focusing on the present,” sophomore middle blocker Kate Dean said. “It was a good time out to lock in and figure ourselves out.”

Eastern was also able to make some very important challenge calls in both games.

Stanev said that Thomas trusts the team to tell her when she needs to throw down the challenge card.

“We usually make eye contact with her, like if we know that there’s a touch we tell her, and she trusts us,” Stanev said.

Aidan Cusack, Autumn Schulz, Cameron Thomas and Luther Yoder contributed to this article. 

The sports staff can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].


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About the Contributor
Rob Le Cates
Rob Le Cates, Editor-in-Chief
Rob Le Cates is a junior journalism major. He previously served as summer editor-in-chief, photo editor and assistant photo editor at The News.

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