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

EIU clinches first seed in OVC tournament

Outside+hitter%2Fopposite+Lilli+Amettis+%2814%29%2C+and+middle+blocker+Julia+Stanev+%2817%29+attempt+to+block+the+ball.+The+Panthers+won+3-1+against+Western+Illinois+Leathernecks.+
Sia Dekyoontz
Outside hitter/opposite Lilli Amettis (14), and middle blocker Julia Stanev (17) attempt to block the ball. The Panthers won 3-1 against Western Illinois Leathernecks.

Eastern volleyball has clinched the first seed in the Ohio Valley Conference playoffs after beating the Western Illinois Leathernecks 3-1. The last time the Panthers clinched the first seed was in 1998.

“There’s no better team for it, and we showed that we can make things happen,” senior libero Christina Martinez Mundo said. “It feels good to bring [winning volleyball] back.”

The Panthers could have clinched the first seed with a win tonight or a SEMO loss. Fortunately for Eastern, both possibilities occurred. SEMO lost 3-1 at home to Lindenwood. Associate Head Coach Cole Aiazzi mentioned that they were not given updates on the SEMO match and focused completely on their own game.

To start the game the Panthers won a back-and-forth first set. The Leathernecks were kept at bay for most of this set, only tying the scores three times (once at 16, once at 19, and once at 20). The rest of the set Eastern kept the lead until it won, 25-21.

The second set wasn’t as close as the first set, with Eastern winning 25-18. Eastern maintained control over Western Illinois, never giving up the lead. Senior outside hitter Giovanna Larregui Lopez, freshman middle blocker Julia Stanev, and sophomore outside hitter Kaitlyn Flynn combined for 12 kills in this set.

In the third set the Panthers took a significant step back, losing 25-8. At one point, the Leathernecks put up eight unanswered points against Eastern.

“Maybe we got a little too comfortable, we did really amazing the first two sets,” Flynn said. “So, I think we got in a little rut and didn’t really know what to do. After that set happened, we were like ‘let’s just forget about it.’”

The Panthers bounced back instantly when Larregui Lopez scored an ace for the first points of the fourth set. The two teams traded blows until the Panthers went on a 4-0 scoring run to give them a 14-10 lead. Eastern never lost the lead after that run. The fourth and final set ended 25-20.

Head Coach Sara Thomas spoke on how it felt finishing first in the OVC in her fourth year as Head Coach.

“When I was hired in 2020 this was the goal, and to have accomplished it is incredible,” Thomas said. “You can’t put into words the feeling.”

During post-game interviews, three separate players came over and said the same phrase about Thomas: “best coach ever.” The players all agree this season could not have been executed without the guidance of Thomas.

Flynn and Larregui Lopez led the Panthers in kills tonight with 15 each. They also combined for 34 points, 16 for Flynn and 18 for Larregui Lopez.

Sophomore setter Catalina Rochaix sets the ball during the Panthers vs. Leathernecks game Wednesday evening. The Panthers won 3-1 against Western Illinois. (Sia Deykoontz)

Sophomore setter Catalina Rochaix led the Panthers in assists with 40. Rochaix has 1,136 assists on the year putting her at 12th all-time in Eastern history.

The Panthers will close out the regular season tomorrow with Senior Night against Western Illinois. The game is scheduled for Nov. 16th, at 4 p.m.

Aidan Cusack can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].

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Han Byer
Han Byer, Photographer
Han Byer is a senior sociology major and she can be reached at 581-2912 or at [email protected].

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