By Jason Finnell

Eastern head volleyball coach Lori Duncan spent yesterday at the hospital. While she was not sick or injured, she was attending to the surgery of an unprecedented fourth player of hers going under the knife – a perfect microcosm of the team’s hard luck up to this point in the season.”We’ve had two surgeries in the last week and a half. Three of the four [players] are out for the season. The storyline for this entire year was we’re going to be competitive if we stay healthy,” Duncan said. “Never in my 27 years of coaching have I dealt with this much injury. No one can sustain that many, that quickly, that early and still expect to be successful.”

Taking a small respite from their recent travels, Eastern’s volleyball team made the short trip up I-75 to the UK Invitational, where they lost three matches to Albany, Kentucky, and Indiana. Their overall record fell to 1-8.

Friday afternoon in Lexington, Eastern was shut out 3-0 by the University of Albany (N.Y.). Senior Amanda Wilson finished with a team-high seven kills. Junior Lindsey Loescher finished with six kills and 10 digs, while sophomore Abby O’Connor added 21 digs for the Colonels.

The following day, Eastern took on Kentucky, getting swept 3-0 by the Wildcats. Wilson again led the Colonels with nine kills and two blocks. Senior Bridget Mustard added eight kills. Freshman Jill Henneman contributed 25 assists.

Later in the day against Indiana, Loescher led Eastern with 12 kills and seven digs. The Colonels were swept 3-0 by the Hoosiers.

Although Eastern did not win a set at the UK Invitational, Duncan is excited about beginning OVC play.

“If we can just maintain our level of health right now for the next few weeks, we’re going to compete,” she said.

Duncan also said that doctors have told her injured setter Kate Hendle will be able to resume activities with the team by mid-October – good news for a team going through so much early in the season. But Duncan feels her players are just taking everything in stride.

“I don’t get the sense that they are giving up,” she said. “There’s no substitute for what they’re learning right now. Adversity is the greatest teacher. We can fight like mad through this situation every day or we can throw in the towel or quit.”

The coach said that she is happy with her seniors’ leadership through these times because they realize that it is through the toughest times that their leadership is needed the most.

Furthermore, Duncan said that she has accepted releasing the original expectations the team had in the beginning of the year because of the unique circumstances.

“We expected to be one of the top three teams in the conference,” Duncan said. “But what we’re trying to do now is different. You have to let go of what you’re not. I think that’s what our team is learning right now.”

The Colonels are trying to slow down their matches and get their opponents to play at their speed, Duncan said.

“We gotta build from where we are. The key for us is competing from the get-go,” Duncan said. “Sometimes it’s hard to remain positive about what’s going to happen, yet there is a sense of optimism.”

Things can only go up from here, right?