Register Staff Report
The Eastern Kentucky University volleyball team snapped Morehead State’s 36-match Ohio Valley Conference winning streak with a 3-2 victory Tuesday at McBrayer Arena.
It was the nation’s longest active conference regular-season winning streak and one short of tying the OVC record, which is held by EKU.
EKU won by scores of 20-25, 25-18, 25-21, 19-25, and 15-11. The Colonels (17-14, 9-6 OVC) had not beaten the Eagles (23-7, 14-1 OVC) since Nov. 8, 2006, a streak of 15 straight.
An elated Coach Lori Duncan called it a “monumental” victory that would be the foundation for the Colonels going forward.
“I can’t sell this group short, this was monumental. I think it will be very important for what comes next. This ended a streak for them, but it is the beginning of something for us, stepping up and playing the type of volleyball we’re capable of on a consistent basis,” Duncan said. “This is the beginning of the end for them. We are going to be good. Next year, look out, we are going to be a really good volleyball team the next few years. I say as long as we stay healthy, we are going to be a freaking exciting team next year.”
Alexis Plagens and Ashley Edmond led the Colonels with 15 kills and 16.5 points each. Sophomore Rachel Vick was second-best for the Colonels with nine kills, four blocks and 11 points. Junior Dena Ott also contributed 23 digs to the victory over MSU.
Eastern had 12 kills on 39 attempts, recording a .103 attack percentage, while the Eagles recorded a .237 in the first set.
The Colonels came out fighting, leading 4-0 early in the match. The Eagles fought right back to tie the score 16-16. Morehead State went on to take the set, 25-20.
EKU took an early lead over MSU, 7-4, in the second set. The Colonels continued their powerful momentum over the OVC leader compliments of Edmond recording four kills and Plagens contributing two kills and three points. EKU controlled the remainder of the set.
The Colonels came out swinging to open the third set. EKU took an early 7-2 lead. Despite the Morehead State’s efforts to rally back mid-match the Colonels took the set, 25-21. The set point was won on an attack error by sophomore Courtney Smith to push EKU to a 2-1 lead.
Plagens added four more kills and scored a total of eight points.
Duncan said the third-set win was the turning point in the match.
“We didn’t finish the job Friday against Belmont. We played well in the first set then went away,” Duncan said. “The times we go away it is a matter of confidence and keeping our heads about us in tough moments. We needed to win that third set and we did it by keeping our heads and staying agressive. That was a big step.”
MSU jumped out to an early lead in the fourth set, but the Colonels dug in and fought back. Behind some strong serving by sophomore outside hitter Ally Peters, EKU tied the game at 15-15. After a timeout, the Eagles once again pulled out to a lead and went on for a 25-19 win.
But even though they lost, Duncan said the fact that the Colonels didn’t quit in the set was huge heading into the fifth and deciding set.
“We kind of let Morehead pull away in the fourth set. But Ally goes back and serves seven very agressive points to tie it before they started to serve aggressively and won it,” Duncan said. “But the bottom line is that even though we lost that set, we didn’t totally go away. That carried over into the fifth set. We put a ball on the floor to start and from that point we got some momentum, all because we kept our composure and didn’t go away.”
The fifth and final set saw a thrilling battle back and forth between EKU and MSU. Kills by Edmond and Plagens brought the Colonels to match-point, 14-11. The match was won on an attack error by McDermott.
Sophomore, Courtney Smith led the Eagles with 20 kills and 20.5 points. Aryn Bohannon added 15 kills.
The difference in the match, Duncan said, was that the Colonels served better and defended the court better than the Eagles.
“Even though they had more kids with kills than we did, the bottom line is we made less errors and we served very aggressively,” Duncan said. “We served very well and pout them into pretty predictable situations where their setter was setting a lot of times out of the setting zone and couldn’t run a temp offense. That forced them into some unforced errors and it was all created by our agressive serving.”
Duncan said a win over the Eagles didn’t look too good after Monday’s practice, which she called the poorest of the season. But a little heart-to-heart talk with her team afterward seemed to light a fire under the Colonels.
“We had a really bad practice yesterday and I really let them have it, she said. “ I let them know that is not what you do to win and not how you go about knocking somebody off and how you find your way into hitting your peak at the right time and they really responded and came out and played really well.” she said. “
The Colonels will host OVC opponent Murray State University Saturday in Richmond for the final match of the regular season. The match is set for 4 p.m.