One to go: Volleyball advances to championship for fourth-straight year

Photo by Racer Athletics

Murray State volleyball defeated Eastern Illinois in four sets 21-25, 24-26, 25-19 and 25-17 to extend their stay in the OVC tournament on their quest for back-to-back conference titles.

The Racers will now advance to their fourth-straight OVC championship. Their win will have them matched-up against regular-season champion Austin Peay, where they’ll look to win their sixth OVC title in program history.

Eastern Illinois pulled a critical upset against second-seeded SIUE and looked to ride momentum into the championship game. However, Eastern Illinois ran into Murray State coming off of their sixth-straight win.

Leading the Racers on offense, sophomore right-side hitter Rachel Holthaus scored a game-high 15 kills on 26 attempts. Holthaus also grabbed eight digs.

Murray State’s outside hitters sophomore Rachel Giustino and junior outside hitter Dacia Brown added timely kills all match. Giustino tallied 14 kills and 12 digs, while Brown had 12 kills.

It was tightly contested in the first set after the Racers took an early 4-1 lead, until the Panthers responded by seizing the lead at 10-6. Murray State fought back to eventually tie the match at 12. But it was 11 errors committed by the Racers in the first set that gave Eastern Illinois the first set win 25-21.

The Panthers looked to continue their consistent play in the first set, but Murray State had been in this position before. In the Racers’ last match against Jacksonville State, they dropped the first set to go on to reel off three-straight to win the match.

Being only one game away from a shot at defending the OVC title, the semifinals were no different.

From that point on, the Racers were solid on both sides of the ball. Murray State sophomore setter Callie Anderton dished a game-high 42 assists. The Racers also finished with 12 service aces in the match.

Murray State played their game against the Panthers, forcing errors and dragging out volleys. The Racers advanced to the title game versus tournament host Austin Peay.

The Governors beat Southeast Missouri State and Eastern Kentucky to play in their first OVC tournament championship game since 2010. Murray State will face Austin Peay at 12 p.m. on Nov. 18, in Clarksville, Tennessee.