Eagles show valiant effort in 3-1 loss USI falls to EIU, 3-1

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EVANSVILLE, Ind. – University of Southern Indiana Volleyball (0-14, 0-3 OVC) started a comeback but fell short as the Screaming Eagles lose to Eastern Illinois University (8-8, 2-1 OVC), 3-1 (24-26, 22-25, 25-23, 21-25). USI dropped the first two sets before issuing a comeback by winning the third set until EIU sealed the match after defeating the Eagles in the fourth frame.
 
A late Panthers’ run gave EIU the 26-24 opening set win over USI. The set opened with a service ace from sophomore outside/right side hitter Abby Bednar (Chagrin Falls, Ohio) that kicked off the Eagles’ 4-2 early lead. EIU was able to pull together three-straight points to keep them in the game. Back-and-forth action proved to be unstoppable until USI pulled away with a 20-17 advantage. The Panthers put together a 4-0 run that caught the Eagles off-balance. USI retaliated with some impressive rallies that pushed the score to 23-22 in favor of the Eagles. EIU tallied the final two points of the match to secure the win. Errors struck both teams heavily in the first frame, combining 17 attacking errors. The set ended with 17 tie scores and seven lead changes, most in the match.
 
A blown Eagles’ lead in the early stages of the second set proved to be costly as EIU came away with a 25-22 victory. Bednar got things rolling with an opening-set kill to spark the 6-2 USI surge. With USI holding an 11-9 lead, the Panthers stormed back and went on a 7-0 run that proved to be costly as the Eagles did not take the lead back the rest of the set. After the EIU stint, Bednar nabbed two kills and an ace while junior outside hitter Leah Anderson (Bloomington, Illinois) provided one kill to keep the Eagles within striking distance; however, it was the six of the eight Panthers’ errors in the second frame that allowed USI to close the gap and put the Eagles within two. EIU secured the win after striking down their 15th kill of the set to go up 2-0.
 
High-powered offense and EIU errors lifted the Eagles to a third-frame victory, 25-23. USI played exceptionally well on offense, nabbing a team-high 11 kills, and only having two hitting errors. On the opposite end, the Panthers were able to strike down 14 kills but put up a match-high 12 attacking errors to drop their hitting percentage to .042. The Eagles went on a late 4-0 run to push the score to 18-13. Kills from freshman middle hitter Bianca Anderson (Chicago Heights, Illinois), sophomore outside hitter Abby Weber (Fishers, Indiana), and Bednar helped the Eagles soar to its first set win since September 16 versus Rhode Island.
 
Despite a valiant comeback, USI watched EIU secure the win, 25-21. The Eagles were down by as many as five late into the set before a late spark tied it at 21 apiece. The Panthers avenged their mistakes and scored four straight to defeat USI in four frames. EIU totaled a match-high 19 kills and a .289 hitting percentage in the set.
 
Anderson and junior outside/right side hitter/setter Katherine Koch (Belleville, Illinois) each earned double-doubles in the match. Anderson racked up 11 kills and 13 digs while Koch tallied a match-high 30 assists and 13 digs. Also earning 13 digs was freshman libero/defensive specialist Keira Moore (Newburgh, Indiana) as sophomore middle hitter Paris Downing (Avon, Indiana) threw down a match-high seven blocks. Bednar led the team with two aces while sophomore outside hitter/defensive specialist Anna Ballengee (Montgomery, Indiana) earned one ace.
 
As a team, the Eagles recorded 36 kills, 33 assists, and three aces while nabbing 18 blocks and 65 digs. The Panthers ended the match with 62 kills, 54 assists, and six aces while tallying 83 digs and eight blocks.