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 Volleyball seniors reflect on regular season, hosting OVC tournament

Ashanti Thomas
Senior outside hitter Giovana Larregui Lopez serves the ball over the net for the Panthers against their game vs. Valparaiso. The Panthers won 3-2 against the Beacons Friday night in Lantz Arena.

Eastern’s volleyball team celebrated senior night at their final game of the season.

The seniors got a little extra volleyball in their last game as the match went into the fifth set as the Panthers won this fifth set 15-10.

The Panthers beat the Western Illinois Leathernecks 3-2 Thursday evening in Lantz Arena.

The seniors recognized libero Christina Martinez-Mundo, outside hitter Ella Collins, outside hitter Giovana Larregui-López, middle blocker Emily Wilcox and graduate outside hitter Natalie Mitchem.

Libero Martinez-Mundo will be playing her 100th game for Eastern during Thanksgiving week in the Ohio Valley Conference Championship.

Libero Christina Martinez Mundo is ninth in the NCAA and seventh in program history for digs in a single season with 588 digs. (File)

Martinez Mundo has been at Eastern all four years of her collegiate career, and she was part of Head Coach Sara Thomas’ original class of recruits.

Martinez-Mundo is ninth in the NCAA and seventh in Eastern’s program history for digs in a single season (finished regular season with 588 digs).

“She is the biggest role model,” freshman libero Masyn Navarro said. “She is one of the best liberos I’ve ever played with, played next to, and worked with.”

Outside hitter Collins is another player from Coach Thomas’ original recruiting class. Collins has been a role model to players on and off the court as she has a 4.0 GPA.

Eastern’s volleyball team has been tied for the second highest GPA among all Eastern sports, in large part due to Collins academic success.

Collins has 327 kills recorded throughout her collegiate career.

Wilcox is the final player who remained at Eastern all four years of college. She currently has 153 blocks throughout her years here.

Wilcox finished senior night with three total blocks, a career high.

“It’s been great,” Wilcox said when asked about her time at Eastern. “I came here, and we were pretty low. Now we’re at the top and it’s been a great ride; great four years.”

Mitchem played four years with Ball State before transferring to Eastern for her fifth season.

Outside hitter/opposite Natalie Mitchem (7), finished fifth in the Ohio Valley Conference with total kills in the 2023 regular season (372). (File)

Mitchem has responded 1,428 career kills, recording 372 kills in her lone season with Eastern.

Mitchem finished fifth in the OVC for total kills this year.

Larregui-López transferred to Eastern after her sophomore year at the College of Coastal Georgia.

Larregui-López played her freshman year at the College of Central Florida. She transferred to the College of Coastal Georgia for her sophomore season.

Larregui-López moved to Eastern for her junior and senior year, and she recorded 809 kills in her two seasons with the Panthers.

Larregui-López currently leads Ohio Valley Conference in kills (420) and service aces (62).

Larregui-López ranks 44th in the country in kills and is tied at 19th in the country for points (493.5).

Larregui-López also holds the record for most kills in a game in program history with 26.

All five members of the 2023 graduating class have contributed to the OVC regular season championship. They also all agree Coach Thomas was key to their development.

“Absolutely instrumental,” Collins said. “She does such a great job of encouraging us and fueling us and giving us the confidence to do what we need to do and go out there. We know that she has trust in us so we can have that trust in ourselves too.”

Eastern will be hosting the OVC tournament for the third time in school history.

The last time Eastern hosted the OVC tournament was in 2005.

“It feels so good,” Collins said. “I remember every year in the past we had to figure out where we were going to go and when we were going to leave. Now we get to be the host and get to play on our home court, which just gives us another advantage. It gives us so much more confidence. It feels great.”

The first seeded Panthers will take on the eighth seed Little Rock Trojans on Monday at 1 p.m. in Lantz Arena.

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

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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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