It took five sets to decide a winner between Eastern Illinois and Butler, but it was the visiting Bulldogs who played spoilers in the Panthers 2016 home opener and won the match by a score a 3-2. The tough loss drops Eastern Illinois volleyball to 0-4 on the season as the Panthers will look to bounce back this weekend at the Memphis Tournament that is scheduled for Sept. 2-3.
The two teams battled back-and-forth in the first set, with a Butler error knotting the score at 6-6. The Bulldogs quickly shook off the error however, and go on an 8-1 run and led 14-7. Butler would not slow down from there as they went on to take the first set 25-13.
The second set had a different story as the Panthers came out of the gates swinging and quickly saw themselves ahead 9-2 after a Josie Winner kill before a Butler timeout. The timeout would not phase the Panthers as they kept the momentum out of the break. Eastern Illinois extended their lead to 22-9 on a block by Maria Brown. A service ace by Butler sealed up the second set victory for the Panthers at 25-14.
With both Eastern Illinois and Butler looking to take the one set advantage, the third set played close all throughout. Butler led all through the first half of the set until a kill by Abby Knight tied the score at 15-15. Butler found themselves ahead once again, but the Panthers would battle back to tie the score at 22 on a block by Winner and Knight. The big block appeared to be the momentum changer in the set as Winner finished off the comeback win for the Panthers with an ace as EIU took the third set 26-24.
Butler was determined to not go away easy as they quickly raced out to a 9-4 lead on a kill by Anna Logan before an Eastern Illinois timeout. EIU trimmed the Butler lead to just three points at 15-12 following back-to-back kills by Taylor Smith and another by Maggie Runge that forced the Bulldogs to take a timeout. The Bulldogs settled in after the timeout and won the fourth set 25-17 to send the game into a fifth set.
The Panthers looked like they would run away with the fifth set as they quickly jumped out to a 3-0 lead behind a Brown kill and two Butler errors. After Butler called a timeout, they went on a 6-1 run to overtake the lead and force the Panthers into a timeout of their own. Butler would extend their lead to four points at 11-7 before another EIU timeout, but the Bulldogs would take four of the final five points in the set to win 15-9.