By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
The Eastern Kentucky University volleyball team (11-12, 4-4 OVC) picked up its fourth straight win Saturday, 3-1 over Jacksonville State (11-12, 4-4 OVC) in McBrayer Arena.
After dropping the first set 25-20, the Colonels regrouped, winning the next three by scores of 25-16, 25-19 and 27-25 to even their Ohio Valley Conference record at 4-4.
Ashley Edmond — 17 kills, five digs and three blocks — and Alexis Plagens — 15 kills and a .243 attack percentage led the way for the Colonels, but they had a lot of help from their teammates.
Sophomore Rachel Vick continued her strong play in the middle for EKU, finishing with nine kills and four blocks, while Dena Ott had an outstanding effort on defense, recording 31 digs in the match.
The Colonels also got big games up front from freshman Johanna Boyer — 14 kills, two digs, and setter Abbey Cvelbar who had a superb night with 46 assists and 10 digs, Mallori Moffat, who finished with 18 digs, and Julia Mindlina who finished with 11 digs.
Colonels Coach Lori Duncan said the development of Vick and Boyer and the strong play of Plagens means teams can no longer just key in on Edmond.
“Alexis and Ashley take the pressure of Rachel and she had developed into a reliable presence at the net. Now nine (Boyer) is starting to become a force so they can’t just follow Ashley now,” Duncan said. “One, or most times two of the three are always in the front row, so that is becoming a big challenge for other teams, they don’t know where the ball is going to be set.”
The Colonels broke a 6-6 tie on the second set with an 10-2 run capped off by a Plagens ace to go up 16-8 and never looked back, cruising to the 25-16 win.
The Colonels jumped on top early in the third set, taking an 8-2 lead on an Edmond block. EKU never let the Gamecocks get closer than five points the rest of the way, winning 25-19.
Game four was much closer from the start as the lead changed hands four times before EKU eventually built a 17-10 lead.
The Gamecocks fought back, going on an 8-3 run to close the gap to two at 20-18. EKU once again stretched its lead back out to four at 24-20, but the Gamecocks refused to quit, running off four straight points to tie it at 24-24.
Edmond gave EKU matchpoint, then the Gamecocks kill attempt sailed over the endline to give the Colonels the game and match.
After struggling a little a few weeks ago after the loss of two players to injury, the Colonels now seem to be regrouping and defining their individual roles on the team.
Duncan said an added emphasis on fundamentals in practice has also helped in the recent surge in better play by the Colonels.
“That first few days, we didn’t know if either one was going to be coming back or not. Now we know they are not, so they know it is the ten of them that have to dig themselves out when things are going bad and they are finding out what they can do individually to help this team get better, Duncan said. “In practice we’ve been doing some basic drills and working on fundamental things. Little things get you ahead, like always reading and putting yourself in position to play the ball back. Those things are the difference right now, we’re getting people in position where they can make the plays we need when we need them.”
The Colonels return to action on Tuesday when Northern Kentucky comes to McBrayer Arena. That will be followed by five OVC contests in an eight-day span.