Clarksville TN – Third-seeded Murray State defeated seventh-seed Eastern Illinois, Friday, November 17th, 2017 at the Dunn Center, to advance to the Ohio Valley Conference Volleyball Tournament finals with a 3-1 (21-25, 26-24, 25-19, 25-17) victory.
Much like their quarterfinal match, Murray State (22-8) got off to a slow start despite jumping out to a quick 3-0 lead before Eastern Illinois (15-15) rallied back to take a 7-4 lead.
The Panthers would extend that lead out to as many as four points, 10-7, with Laurel Bailey picking up a couple of kills during the run. Bailey would lead the Panthers with 12 kills.
Murray State would make a charge to tie the game for the second time, 12-12, with Dacia Brown picking up two kills for the Racers, but the Panther followed with a 4-0 run to force a Murray State timeout trailing 16-12.
But the timeout did little to slow the Panthers, who built its lead out to as many as five points, 20-15 following an attack error by Murray State.
But the Racers keep on grinding, scoring four straight points points – including two aces by Courtney Randle — to tie the game for the third time, 20-20.
EIU kept its composure though, closing the opening set by scoring five of the final six points — including a block by Allie Hueston and Taylor Smith — for the decisive point in the 25-21 win to go up 1-0. Smith finished with 10 kills for EIU.
Set two begin like set one ended with EIU continuing its hot streak, running off the set’s first seven points – including back-to-back kills from Bailey in the opening burst.
But Murray State would regroup, scoring seven of the next eight points – including two kills by Katirah Johnson — to cut the Panthers lead down to a single point, 8-7, forcing an EIU timeout.
The set would then become a back-and-fourth affair, with four ties and lead changes, before EIU got a little breathing room with 5-0 run to go up four, 16-12. Johnson was one of four Racers to record double-figures in kills, finishing with 11.
Murray State wouldn’t go away though as they slowly clawed its way back to a one-point game, 21-20 following a kill by Rachel Holthaus to force an EIU timeout. Holthaus led Murray State with 15 kills and a .577 attack percentage.
But the Panther couldn’t slow the Murray State charge, as the Racers rallied to Eastern Illinois, 26-24, to even the match at one set each.
Set three had the two teams both have a couple of mini runs to open thing up, before Murray State started to get on a roll by going up 8-4 and forcing an EIU timeout.
Murray State would extend its lead out to five points, 11-6, the Panthers would claw its way back into the lead by running off six straight points – including two kills by Taylor Smith — to take the lead 12-11.
But the dye had been cast in the set, with Eastern Illinois unable to stem the tide and Murray State taking the set, 25-19, to go up two sets to one.
Set four would see Murray State get out early, 3-0, but see EIU rally to tie the game three times before taking its first lead of the set, 9-8.
But that would be the final lead the Panthers would have with the Racers rolling down the stretch, including scoring the sets final five points for the 25-17 final and a 3-1 win.
Murray State will now face either top-seeded Austin Peay or fourth-seed Eastern Kentucky in the tournament final on Saturday, November 18th at noon in the Dunn Center.