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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.

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Martinez Mundo’s impact on EIU Volleyball

Ashanti Thomas
Senior Christina Martinez Mundo (4) pets Bear the dog before starting their game vs. Valparaiso Friday night in Lantz Arena.

A great libero can turn a struggling program into a winning program instantly.

The role the libero plays is vital to team success; they coordinate the defense and defend most offensive shots.

Panther senior libero Christina Martinez Mundo is one of the best defenders in all of collegiate volleyball. It has largely gone unnoticed among students and fans how excellent a player Martinez Mundo has been in the past four years.

She has been a key component in Eastern’s volleyball rebuild into their current Ohio Valley Conference champion form.

Across the entirety of the NCAA, Martinez Mundo is ranked fourth in digs (defensive plays) this season with 659. She ranks fifth in digs per set with 5.63 (0.02 behind fourth place).

Martinez Mundo is ranked second in the entirety of school history for career digs with 1733 (67 digs past third place).

Going into the NCAA playoffs, Martinez Mundo is currently ranked ninth in OVC history for digs in a season, two digs away from eighth place.

Martinez Mundo has been a staple of Eastern Volleyball for the past four years. In her freshman year, she led EIU with 218 digs, and she was named starting libero.

Martinez Mundo kept this position throughout her college career.

Being at Eastern for so long, Martinez Mundo had the opportunity to work with many liberos. She has been trained by players in years past and has trained upcoming players in more recent years.

Freshman libero Masyn Navarro was one of these upcoming players that was taken under Martinez Mundo’s wings.

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

In hindsight, a player of this caliber could have gone anywhere. So, why did Martinez Mundo choose Eastern?

Hailing from San Juan Puerto Rico, 1,963 miles south of Charleston, Eastern seems like a unique spot to play college volleyball.

For one, Panthers’ Head Coach Sara Thomas made it a point to recruit Martinez Mundo to Eastern. There were several traits that drew Coach Thomas to her.

“The love she has for the game, the loyalty that she brought with her, the drive that she knew what she wanted, and that she was all for our vision.” Coach Thomas said. “She’s my go to gal and the heart of our team.”

Thomas cites former Associate Head Coach Manolo Conception as playing a crucial role in bringing Martinez-Mundo to Eastern Illinois.

“He played the role of getting her here,” Coach Thomas noted. “I can’t take the credit of finding her because it was all on my staff.”

Both Thomas and Martinez Mundo began their careers at Eastern in 2020.

Thomas remembered that she wanted to bring in cornerstone players to build a successful team by her fourth year.

“When [Coach Thomas] recruited me, she wanted me to know it was a rebuilding program,” Martinez Mundo said. “I obviously have to take that into consideration, because that’s a lot to deal with. Especially coming in as a freshman. I wanted to be part of it, so that’s why I decided to come here.”

Martinez Mundo and Coach Thomas have brought the Panthers from a backwater team in the OVC to a dominant contender in the NCAA.

The year before both Thomas and Martinez Mundo came to Eastern, the Panthers finished 3-26 (1-15 OVC). In Martinez Mundo’s final year, the Panthers finished 28-4 (15-3 OVC).

Martinez Mundo also finished this season as the OVC Tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

“To see the growth threw out the years is very special, because I was part of it,” Martinez Mundo said.

Martinez Mundo will be on the court again Thursday at 3:30 p.m. for the first round of the NCAA Volleyball Tournament. The match will be against Marquette University and hosted by Purdue in West Lafayette, Indiana.

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

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About the Contributor
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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