The Eastern Kentucky University volleyball team went the distance in two home matches on Friday and Saturday to defeat Lipscomb and Central Arkansas, 3-2.

In EKU’s first match of the weekend, the Colonels overcame a 2-0 deficit to defeat Lipscomb, 3-2, with scores of 15-25, 21-25, 25-20, 25-23 and 15-8.

“Being down 0-2 and then coming back and winning the next three in a row was huge,” said head coach Johnna Bazzani. “You can just tell throughout the entire match, the momentum was on our side and we controlled the entire game.”

Lipscomb utilized seven service aces to nab set one, 25-15. The Bison finished the set on a 7-0 scoring run.

From there, EKU kept with Lipscomb for much of the second set. A kill from freshman outside hitter Anna Purichia prompted a Lipscomb timeout. Her swing capped off a 3-0 scoring run that gave EKU a 21-20 lead. Lipscomb responded with five straight points to finish the set and take a 2-0 lead in the match.

The Colonels bounced back with a huge third set victory. A kill from sophomore outside hitter Molly Michalak gave EKU an early 4-3 lead. Lipscomb battled back to take the lead, 8-10. A service ace from freshman setter Miya Carmichael allowed EKU to go ahead, 15-12, heading into the media timeout. Three straight Bison errors capped off a 10-2 scoring run for EKU and put the Colonels in front, 18-12. EKU never looked back and grabbed the set, 25-20.

“I think after the first two sets, we came out and we huddled outside the gym and we talked about how we just have to have faith, and we just have to believe that we can do it because we know that we can,” said Michalak.

The momentum stayed with the Colonels in the fourth set. Purichia ripped one down and blocked a Lipscomb swing to put EKU up 4-2. Freshman outside hitter Kali Walker put one away to give the Colonels an 8-5 lead. EKU led by four at the media timeout off of a successful joust at the net for Walker. Lipscomb remained close for much of the set and brought the game within one on five occasions late in the set, but a kill from Purichia gave EKU the set, 25-23.

EKU controlled the fifth set, jumping out to a 6-1 lead on a Michalak kill. A tandem block from Michalak and senior middle blocker Mikayla Logan prompted a Lipscomb timeout with EKU ahead 9-4. Lipscomb never got closer than four points and a kill from Walker secured the victory for the Colonels.

The serve-receive battle was crucial to EKU’s comeback. Lipscomb ended with 11 aces and ten errors compared to EKU’s seven aces and one error. Bazzani said the team made some changes to throw Lipscomb off their rhythm after Lipscomb’s hot start behind the service line in the first set.

“We just made some shifts in our passers and really identifying where they’re serving at and targeting. We really just needed to balance out our passing core back there and they did a great job at just hanging in there and making shifts where we need to,” Bazzani said.

Michalak led all Colonels with 17 kills and just 2 errors on 51 swings. She recorded her 500th career kill during the game as well.

“The past couple games I just have been in my head so today my mindset was just like play mindlessly, play for your teammates, don’t overthink things. And I think, like, as a team, we do better when we don’t overthink things,” said Michalak.

“She played such a balanced game today and that’s exactly what we needed to fuel just to finish that set,” said Bazzani. “She’s just a sophomore and she gets that extra year in so I can only imagine her total kills by the end that she’s graduating with, but she did a great job tonight leading for our offense.”

The Colonels picked up right where they left off Friday in their victory over Central Arkansas on Saturday. With the win, EKU clinched a spot in the ASUN Conference tournament. The tournament begins on Nov. 19 in Fort Myers, Florida.

EKU won with scores of 20-25, 26-24, 25-22, 20-25 and 15-9.

Central Arkansas won the first set, 25-20. EKU led 11-9 before Central Arkansas went on a 5-0 scoring run. A kill from Lowe brought EKU within one, 20-21, but Central Arkansas ended with four straight points to take the set.

A Logan kill put EKU ahead 8-6 early in the second set. An error from Lowe put the Sugar Bears within one, but three straight kills from sophomore outside hitter Sarah Mitchell and Purichia increased the EKU lead to 11-7. Central Arkansas cut the lead to one, 13-12, on a 4-0 scoring run. With the set tied at 17-17, EKU went on a 5-0 run to go ahead 22-17. Central Arkansas tied the set at 24 apiece before a block from Logan and Purichia and a Sugar Bear error gave EKU the set, 26-24.

The third set remained close as well. A block from Lowe stopped a 4-0 Central Arkansas run and brought EKU within one, 7-8. The back-and-forth set included several two and three point runs from both teams. A Michalak kill finished off the third, 25-22.

EKU jumped out to a quick 4-1 lead in the fourth set on a Purichia kill. Central Arkansas used a 5-1 run in the middle of the set to take control at 10-7. EKU cut the lead to one, 16-17, on an ace from sophomore setter Audrey Eurton, but Central Arkansas never relinquished the lead and tied the match, 2-2.

Both teams alternated points to start set five. Down 5-7, EKU utilized two kills from Eurton, two service aces from redshirt junior libero Schoen and a Central Arkansas error to go ahead 10-7. Two consecutive kills from Michalak capped off the set, and the match for EKU.

Mitchell led the charge with 24 kills on 58 swings. Eurton tallied a team-high 57 assists and five service aces. Schoen anchored the EKU defense with 27 digs and recorded her 1,000th career dig during the match.

Eastern Kentucky closes out the regular season on Nov. 13 at home versus Bellarmine at 4 p.m.

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