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

Sara Thomas keeps improving

Volleyball Head Coach Sara Thomas has improved in every season she has been at Eastern. (File)

In Head Coach Sara Thomas’ career at Eastern she has improved every year. Thomas took over as Eastern’s Volleyball coach in 2019.

Thomas’ first season came during the shortened pandemic in 2020. During this season the Panthers played 16 games and finished with a record of 2-14 in the Ohio Valley Conference. Thomas got her first win as the Panthers Head Coach in a 3-0 sweep against the Tennessee State Tigers.

The 2021 season was a sign of improvement for Thomas and her squad. The Panthers posted an overall record of 11-18 and 4-14 record in OVC play. The Panthers were the best team statistically in service aces in the OVC conference. The team also improved in the digs category, opponent hitting percentage, and in blocks.

In Thomas’ third season the Panthers went 16-16 and finished 4th in the OVC with a 10-8 record. The Panthers made it into the OVC conference tournament but lost their first match to Southeast Missouri 3-2. The team led the OVC in points, hitting percentage, assists, kills, digs and opponent hitting percentage, opponent kills, and opponent service aces.

In the 2023 season Thomas has her team off to the second-best start in Eastern history with a record of 17-2. The team sits in 1st place in the OVC and leads in points, hitting percentage, service aces, opponent hitting percentage, opponent assists, opponent kills, opponent blocks, and opponent digs.

The biggest contributors to the 2023 Volleyball team.

  • Senior defensive specialist/libero Christina Martinez Mundo. Martinez Mundo has 70 sets under her belt this season and has 390 digs, and 25 service aces on the season. She is fifth in the nation in digs per set with 5.57. In 2022 she was named 2nd team All-OVC.
  • Graduate outside/opposite hitter Natalie Mitchem. She has played in 67 sets and has 248 kills on the year. She is 67th in kills per set with 3.70.
  • Sophomore setter Catalina Rochaix. She has played in 67 sets and has 704 assists and 119 digs. She is 25th in the nation in assists per set with 10.51.
  • Senior outside hitter Giovana Larregui Lopez. Giovana has 243 kills, 167 digs, and 20 Block assists. She is sixth in the nation in aces per set with 0.61 and 46th in points per set with 4.43. In 2022 Giovana was 1st Team All-OVC, OVC Player of the Year and was a Honorable Mention for All-Region and All-American. She has 67 sets.
  • Sophomore setter Sylvia Hasz. She has played in 66 sets and has 26 service aces.
  • Junior libero/defensive specialist Laura Paniagua. Laura has played in 63 sets this season with 124 digs and 20 service aces and 14 assists.
  • Junior outside hitter Kaitlyn Flynn. She has played in 63 sets and has 151 kills, 43 digs and 19 block assists this year. Flynn was also named 1st team All-OVC in 2022.
  • Freshmen middle blocker Julia Stanev. She has played in 60 sets and currently has 50 Kills, 59 block assists and 12 solo blocks on the year. Stanev is 71st in the nation in blocks per set with 1.18.
  • Sophomore middle blocker Kate Dean. She has played in 57 sets and has 107 kills, 23 digs, and 31 block assists this season.

Cameron Thomas can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].

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