The Eastern Kentucky University volleyball team bounced back from a sweep against Jacksonville State with a win over North Alabama on Saturday at McBrayer Arena.
The Colonels won the match, 3-1, with scores of 25-13, 25-21, 29-31 and 25-20.
Freshman outside hitter Anna Purichia paced the Colonels’ offense with 14 kills. She credited her offensive success to the team’s defense.
“Our defense was lights-out today and, you know, it obviously makes my job as a hitter a lot easier when you get a good pass, a good set. I can only thank the defensive players tonight. They were the reason we won that game,” said Purichia.
Redshirt junior libero Sydney Schoen held her ground in the back row, leading EKU with 16 digs. Freshman setter Taylor Grinley dished out a team-high 24 assists.
“The way that we started today’s match, you know, coming in and taking the first set 25-13 really showed a statement of how we came in from the loss the night before and really regrouped together as a team,” said EKU coach Johnna Bazzani.
The Colonels started the game strong, using a kill from middle blocker Reilly Lowe and a North Alabama error to force a Lions timeout at 9-3. EKU held a consistent lead for much of the first set and used a 4-0 run at the end of the set to win, 25-13.
The second set began much like the first set. EKU raced out to a quick 7-2 lead. Sophomore outside hitter Sarah Mitchell picked up two of her four service aces in the run; however, the Lions responded and closed the gap to two, 14-12, on a kill by Anna Griggs. The Lions got within one point late in the second set after another run, but EKU pulled away and finished off set two, 25-21, on a kill from Purichia.
The third set was a close battle. EKU went ahead early, 4-1, on an ace from Mitchell. The Lions came back and scored eight of the next 11 points to go ahead by five. North Alabama maintained the lead until the Colonels stormed back late in the set to reach match point, 24-22. From there, the Lions scored three straight points to take the lead, 25-24. After that, it was a consistent back-and-forth battle, with both teams alternating points. EKU had another match point on a Michalak kill at 29-28, but North Alabama scored three in a row to take the set, 31-29.
Purichia said the battle at the end of the third set makes the game worth playing.
“It’s just so much fun to be out there, especially when it’s, you know, 29-30, and the game’s on the line, like that’s just so exciting. And having the energy from the bench and the coaches, like it’s such a fun atmosphere,” Purichia said.
EKU took control early in the fourth set, scoring seven of the first nine points on kills from Purichia and senior middle blocker Mikayla Logan, an ace from Mitchell and several North Alabama errors. The Colonels led by as many as eight points before the Lions trimmed away at the lead. North Alabama got within two, 20-18, but four straight points for EKU stopped the run and allowed the Colonels to finish off the set, 25-20, and the match, 3-1.
Crucial to EKU’s success was their eight service aces. Bazzani said one of the team’s main focuses of the match was winning the serve-pass battle.
“Getting aces and also just keeping a team out-of-system is all you can really do and that throws their game off, and it makes it a lot easier for us on defense. I’m proud of how we executed that, especially just because that was our main focus today,” Bazzani said.
EKU is back in action on Wednesday, Oct. 6 versus Western Kentucky University at McBrayer Arena. Purichia said EKU can compete with the Hilltoppers if the team sticks to the basics.
“I think just like focusing on our side of the court is really going to help us in that game. I’m excited. I think it’ll be a really good match,” said Purichia.