By Jason Finnell
For the Eastern volleyball team, the early season struggles continue.Having had only two days of practice to prepare for their trip to the Pitt Classic in Pittsburgh, Eastern was welcomed rudely to the steel city on Friday as they dropped their first match to Pittsburgh, who beat the Colonels 3-0 (25-13, 25-11, 25-12). Hours later, they lost to Ohio 3-1 (25-16, 23-25, 25-22, 25-8). On Saturday, Eastern dropped their third and final match of the weekend to Binghampton 3-0 (25-17, 25-14, 25-14).
The Pittsburgh Panthers opened their season where the Colonels will continue it this weekend, playing the University of Kentucky. Pitt beat Western Carolina, but lost to Kentucky and Wisconsin.
Ohio came into their match with Eastern 0-3, but their losses came against top-12 teams, including the country’s No. 1, Penn State.
Binghamton came into the tournament 2-1 with victories over Rutgers and Akron.
In the first game of the Classic, freshman Ashley Horak led the Colonels with five kills against Pitt. Freshman Jill Henneman had 11 assists. Sophomore Abby O’Connor led Eastern with 11 digs.
Head coach Lori Duncan said no particular player stood out in the team’s match against the Panthers.
“It’s hard to pinpoint anyone,” Duncan said. “We didn’t compete and get after it. The adjustments we have to make are going to be physical and emotional as well.”
Duncan felt the Ohio match was the first time her team competed well since starting setter Kate Hendle went down with a knee injury.
“I felt it was the first time we did things,” Duncan said of the team’s improved execution, and added that the team cannot become complacent if they want to get better.
“We cannot have this room for error,” she said.
Junior Lindsey Loescher led Eastern with 11 kills, along with five digs and two block assists. Senior Amanda Wilson finished with nine kills. O’Connor added 13 more digs and Henneman posted 24 assists.
Eastern ended its stay in the tournament with the loss to Binghamton on Saturday.
“It was a rough weekend,” Duncan said. “We’re going to have four days of practice before we compete at Kentucky, but it’s still pretty stiff competition.”
And as the team plays more matches without its injured teammates Hendle and Autumn Harm, the seniors are slowly adjusting to their new roles.
“What we’ve got to balance is for the seniors to recognize that this isn’t an optimal situation,” Duncan said. “As our seniors get better and better, the rest of the team will follow suit.”
Despite many problems early in the season, the Colonels are trying to dig their way out of the hole.
“You have to cut out a new path. Once you cut out that new path, you have to believe in it and make it work,” Duncan said.