By JOEY CHAPMAN
Eastern volleyball played its final set of home games for this season last weekend. With the regular season coming to a close and the conference tournament on the horizon, the Colonels needed wins to build momentum.
Eastern Illinois (15-13, 10-4 OVC) visited McBrayer Arena on Friday evening, marking the only time the Panthers faced the Colonels this season.
The first set was a mainly back and forth affair with neither team managing to establish a clear advantage. Eastern Illinois led 20-18 late in the set, though a kill and two Colonel errors put the Panthers up 23-18. Eastern (10-21, 8-6 OVC) would score the next three points, but Eastern Illinois closed out the set to win 25-23.
While the teams seemed to be even early in the second set, the Panthers scored five unanswered points while down by two to take a 13-10 advantage. The Colonels wouldn’t let it phase them, trading licks with the Panthers to tie the set at 21 a piece. Eastern Illinois got a kill to regain the lead, but the Colonels, led by senior Rachel Vick, scored four unanswered points to win 25-22.
Once again, neither team managed to establish a clear advantage in the third set. The Panthers scored the last three points of the set to win 25-21, taking a 2-1 lead in the match. Eastern Illinois took advantage of yet another back and fourth battle late in the fourth set, denying the Colonels a comeback by winning 25-23 to win the match 3-1.
Eastern was led by Vick with 14 kills, who hit .448 on the night. Celina Sanks and Mallory Maxwell added on 14 digs each.
The Colonels were left with no time to hang its heads as Eastern took on Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (7-17, 5-9 OVC) on Saturday afternoon.
Eastern simply dominated the Cougars in the first set, leading 17-8 at one point. While SIUE tried to make a push late in the set, the Colonels held on for a 25-20 victory.
The tables turned in the second set as the Cougars jumped out to the lead early and never looked back. Leading Eastern 21-17, SIUE scored the final four points of the set to tie the match at one all going into the locker room.
In a dramatic third set, the momentum flipped several times allowing both teams to score in bunches. With Eastern leading 14-11, the Panthers scored seven unanswered points and looked to put the Colonels away. With SIUE extending its lead to 20-15, Eastern fired right back and scored the final 10 points of the set to steal a 25-20 win.
SIUE had the upper hand in the fourth set, defeating Eastern 25-10 to force a deciding fifth set.
The teams traded points back and forth during the entire set; neither wanting to lose. The teams reached set-point several times, but both SIUE and the Colonels always seemed to have a rally up its sleeve. With the set tied at 18, Eastern scored two points to finally emerge victorious 20-18 to get a 3-2 win on senior night.
Celina Sanks paved the way to victory for Eastern with 13 kills as Cassie Knutson added on 38 assists.
Eastern plays its final regular season game on Saturday, heading to Clarksville, Tenn. to play Austin Peay (9-21, 3-11 OVC) at 3 p.m..