By Nick Johnson
Eastern’s volleyball team went on the road last weekend with intentions of continuing their recent winning ways and moving up the OVC standings. Instead, the Colonels (4-15, 4-6 OVC) dropped both of their matches in straight sets.
Head coach Lori Duncan told her team to go out and make a statement before the Tennessee Tech match on Friday. Unfortunately, the statement made was more of a reminder of the Colonels team that started the season 0-12, rather than the team that had won four of its last five matches heading into the weekend.
“I told the team before the Tech match that we need to make a statement and jump on them early, and make them beat us,” Duncan said. “If they are going to score, make them work for it.”
Tech scored on an uncontested play to start the match and went on to a 5-0 run before Eastern scored.
“We don’t have that alpha-female athlete who can bring us back all on her own,” Duncan said, “so getting out to a good start is especially important for us.”
Set scores for the Tennessee Tech (7-12, 6-4 OVC) match were 25-22, 25-19, and 25-17. Eastern trailed the entire first and third sets.
Junior middle blocker Autumn Harms led the Colonels with 14 kills. Junior setter Kate Hendle, winner of the OVC Setter of the Week award for the last two weeks, had 31 assists.
Junior defensive specialist Kelsey Rose led the Colonels with 17 digs. Junior libero Abby O’Connor also had 14 digs for Eastern.
Tennessee Tech was led by the double-doubles of Leah Meffert (18 kills and 10 digs) and Melanie Culp (36 assists and 10 digs).
The story was the same Saturday for the Colonels match up against the OVC leader, Jacksonville State. (18-5, 11-0 OVC)
JSU took all three sets with the scores 25-18, 25-19, and 25-17.
Junior outside hitter Lauren Snyder led Eastern with 10 kills.
Hendle’s 29 assists for the match moved her up to fifth on Eastern’s all-time assist list, 66 assists away from fourth.
Also moving up through the Eastern’s record book, O’Connor’s 14 digs against JSU moved her to ninth on Eastern’s all-time digs list, 36 away from eighth.
JSU was led by Brittney Whitten’s 14th consecutive double-double (10 kills and 13 digs) and Brooke Schumacher’s 49 assists, 10 digs, and 3 service aces.
“I’m absolutely floored. I did not see this flat performance coming,” Duncan said. “We weren’t ready to compete.”
The Colonels will look to rebound against conference and instate rival Morehead State on Thursday. The Colonels travel to play at Morehead at 7 p.m. The Eagles spoiled Eastern’s home opener with a 3-0 win in September.
“Consistent performance is crucial for us,” Duncan said. “We’ve had solid performances lately, but they haven’t been consistent. When you perform well; they need to realize that they have to continue to perform. Their teammates count on them to perform well. It becomes expected.”
The Colonels play Morehead Thurdsay.
Eastern returns home to play Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville (1-18) on Saturday at 2 p.m.