The Eastern Kentucky University volleyball team went the distance in two home games Friday and Saturday to defeat Lipscomb and Central Arkansas, 3-2.
In EKU’s first game 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.
“To be down 0-2 and then come back and win the next three in a row was huge,” said head coach Johnna Bazzani. “You can tell throughout the game, the momentum was on our side and we controlled the whole game.”
Lipscomb used seven service aces to grab a set, 25-15. The Bison finished the set on a 7-0 streak.
From there, EKU stayed with Lipscomb for much of the second set. A kill from first-year outside hitter Anna Purichia prompted a timeout from Lipscomb. His swing capped a 3-0 streak that gave EKU a 21-20 lead. Lipscomb responded with five straight points to end the set and take a 2-0 lead in the match.
The Colonels bounced back with a huge third-set win. A kill from second outside hitter Molly Michalak gave EKU a 4-3 lead. Lipscomb fought back to take the lead, 8-10. A serving ace from first-year passer Miya Carmichael put EKU ahead, 15-12, before the media timeout. Three consecutive Bison errors capped a 10-2 point streak for EKU and put the Colonels ahead, 18-12. EKU never looked back and grabbed the set, 25-20.
“I think after the first two sets we went out and 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 we can,” Michalak said.
The momentum stayed with the Colonels in the fourth set. Purichia ripped one up and blocked a Lipscomb swing to put EKU up 4-2. First-year outside hitter Kali Walker put one aside to give the Colonels an 8-5 lead. EKU led by four in the media timeout after a successful net game for Walker. Lipscomb stayed close for much of the set and brought the match under one five times late in the set, but a kill from Purichia gave EKU the set, 25-23.
EKU controlled the fifth set, taking a 6-1 lead on a Michalak kill. A tandem block from Michalak and senior middle blocker Mikayla Logan prompted a timeout from Lipscomb with EKU ahead 9-4. Lipscomb never came within four runs and a Walker kill secured the Colonels victory.
The serve-receive battle was crucial for EKU’s comeback. Lipscomb finished with 11 aces and ten errors to EKU’s seven aces and one error. Bazzani said the team made some changes to knock Lipscomb off the pace after Lipscomb stormed off from behind the service line in the first set.
“We just made some changes to our passers and really identify where they serve and target. We really needed to balance out our passing core there and they did a great job hanging on and making changes where we needed them,” Bazzani said.
Michalak led all Colonels with 17 kills and just 2 errors on 51 swings. She also recorded her 500th career kill during the game.
“The last two games I was just in my head, so today my mindset was like playing without thinking, playing for your teammates, not thinking too much. And I think as a team , we are more successful when we don’t overthink things,” Michalak said.
“She played such a balanced game today and that’s exactly what we needed to finish this set,” Bazzani said. “She’s only a sophomore and she’s getting that extra year, so I can only imagine her winning total at the end that she’ll graduate with, but she did a great job tonight in leading our attack.”
The Colonels picked up where they left off Friday in their win over central Arkansas on Saturday. With this win, EKU clinched a spot in the ASUN Conference Tournament. The tournament begins November 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 scored 5-0. A kill from Lowe brought EKU within one, 20-21, but Central Arkansas finished with four straight points to win the set.
A kill from Logan put EKU ahead 8-6 early in the second set. A Lowe error put the Sugar Bears within one, but three straight wins by outside second hitter Sarah Mitchell and Purichia increased EKU’s lead to 11-7. Arkansas Center cut the lead to one, 13-12, on a 4-0 run. With the set tied at 17-17, EKU rode 5-0 to go ahead 22-17. The Arkansas center tied the set at 24 apiece before a block from Logan and Purichia and an error from Sugar Bear gave EKU the set, 26-24.
The third set also remained tight. A block from Lowe stopped a 4-0 run in Central Arkansas and brought EKU within one, 7-8. The home and away set featured several two- and three-point runs from both teams. A Michalak kill finished third, 25-22.
EKU took an early 4-1 lead in the fourth set on a kill by Purichia. 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 game, 2-2.
The two teams alternated points to start the fifth set. Down 5-7, EKU used two kills from Eurton, two service aces from redshirt junior Libero Schoen and an error from center Arkansas to go ahead 10-7. Two straight Michalak wins capped the set and match for EKU.
Mitchell led the charge with 24 kills on 58 swings. Eurton had 57 assists and five service aces. Schoen anchored the EKU defense with 27 digs and recorded his 1,000th career dig during the game.
Eastern Kentucky closes the regular season Nov. 13 at home against Bellarmine at 4 p.m.