(Jim Dillon, Tennessee Tech)

By Kayla Lasure

Eastern’s volleyball team (5-13, 2-6 OVC) concluded its four game road stretch this with a win against Tennessee Tech University and a loss against Jacksonville State University.
Eastern started off weekend by defeating Tennessee Tech 3-1. The first set of the game began with a kill by the Colonels’ Kelsey Kuehner with the Golden Eagles scoring a kill of their own by Kelsey Gray. The score was tied two more times until Eastern pulled ahead by four points, 10-6.
Eastern remained ahead until three consecutive attack errors by the Colonels would bring the score to 20-19. Tennessee Tech tied the score at 21, but Eastern regained composure and went on to win the set, 25-22.
In the second set, Tennessee Tech kept the lead for the majority of the set by a three-point margin. A ball-handling error by Tennessee Tech’s Ashleigh Hancock tied the score at 17. Two more back-to-back ball-handling errors and one attack error by the Golden Eagles gave the Colonels a 20-17 lead. Tennessee Tech pulled ahead and retained the lead for the remainder of the set taking it, 25-23.
Kills by Kuehner and Plagens gave Eastern a 2-0 lead early in the third set. A kill by Tennessee Tech’s Audrey Lewis plus three consecutive Colonel attack errors tied the score at five. Eastern took the lead and widened the margin to 10 at 22-12 and the Colonels eventually took the set 25-15.
Tennessee Tech took  the  lead in the fourth set  and kept it until the halfway point. After the score was tied at 14, Eastern scored six straight points and kept the lead for the rest of the set to win the match.
“Tennessee Tech started putting up a heavy block against Alexis Plagens and Ashley Edmond,” Coach Lori Duncan said. “We started doing more quick sets and hitting inside balls to catch them off guard.”
Edmond finished the game with a season- best 19 kills to go with 18 digs, and two blocks. Rachel Vick contributed 12 kills and one block, providing 13 total points for the game. Plagens had 10 kills for the game, Dena Ott added 21 digs, and Mallori Moffat led all players with 28 assists.
This weekend was the “Pink Out” games for Tennessee Tech and some of the money raised at the games was donated to an organization for breast cancer research and awareness.
“Some people had pink warm-up shirts and pink socks to support breast cancer awareness” junior Ashley Edmond said. “It’s always fun to fundraise; I think it’s important for the OVC to do it for this cause.”
On Saturday, Eastern traveled farther south to Jacksonville, Ala. to play Jacksonville State University (11-11, 5-3 OVC).  The Colonels lost to the Gamecocks 2-3 with scores of 25-23, 22-25, 22-25, 25-23 and 15-3.
Ashley Edmond continued her solid performance with 19 kills, matching her season best from the day before. Edmond also added a team-best 20 digs.
“I feel great about my spiking and overall playing this past weekend,” Edmond said. “I now know that I should play at that level all the time and it gives me a lot of confidence that we’re performing at a higher level.”
Even with Edmond’s contributions to the Colonels offense, the Gamecocks had 71 successful kills, to Eastern’s 45. Edmond said the last set doesn’t reflect the team’s hard work in their previous sets.
“I feel like in the fifth set we just kind of gave up,” Edmond said. “We need to work on starting strong and ending strong, staying consistent the whole way through.”
Duncan said the coaching staff decided to move Ashley Edmond from outside hitter to the right side position, Kelsey Kuehner moved from middle blocker to the outside, and Toni Michalski took over Kuehner’s position in the middle. The Colonels had never tried this before, so it would not have been on any game footage Jacksonville could have watched to prepare.
For the fifth set however, they decided to change back to the original lineup to catch Jacksonville by surprise again.
“In the fifth set we made a rotation error, because the girls had been used to playing in the new changed lineup” said Duncan. “We got a point deduction from that, and we couldn’t recover from it, costing us the set and the game.”
Duncan said they could make this new lineup permanent, but the team needs to be versatile between lineup changes and will work on these things to prepare for their upcoming matches.  
Edmond has high hopes for the team’s next two matches, which will be at home.
“I hope we still have people coming out for us this weekend,” Edmond said. “Seeing our fans support us will give us a boost and help us feel rejuvenated for our next games.”
The Colonels return home at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19 to face the University of Tennessee-Martin. Eastern finishes the home stand at 2 p.m. Saturday against Southeast Missouri State University.