EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – Rachel McDonald tallied the most kills in a single match this season by an Ohio Valley Conference hitter Wednesday as SIUE bested Eastern Illinois in five sets at the Vadalabene Center.
SIUE improved to 5-0 in OVC play at the Vadalabene Center with an 18-25, 25-22, 25-23, 33-35, 15-11 win over the Panthers. The Cougars are now 7-16 overall and 6-5 in the OVC. Eastern Illinois dropped to 9-17 overall and 4-7 in the OVC.
"It was a really tough match," said SIUE Head Coach Kendall Paulus. "and we knew it was going to be a tough match."
McDonald recorded 30 kills and became the first player since SIUE Athletics Hall of Famer Lindsay Rust to reach 30 kills in a match. Rust had 34 and 31 in matches during the 1998 season. McDonald and Rust are the only SIUE players ever to reach 30 kills.
SIUE gained momentum after a first set loss. McDonald and Everett boasted 11 kills in sets two and three as the Cougars gained a one-set advantage.
The fourth set had both teams reeling. Eastern Illinois averted four SIUE match points while SIUE turned away five set points before Hannah Sieg picked up the set-winning kill at 35-33, the longest set of the season for the Cougars.
Four Eastern Illinois players would finish with double-digit kills, including 22 from Laurel Bailey. Taylor Smith had 12 while Danielle Allen and Katie Sommer each finished with 10.
SIUE had an 8-5 lead when the teams switched sides in set five, but EIU fought back to a 10-10 tie. That's when the Cougars pulled away, winning five of the six final points, including a pair of kills from McDonald, to avenge an earlier loss this season to the Panthers.
"I thought we showed a lot of composure," said Paulus.
Both teams stretched the defense. EIU collected 102 digs while SIUE finished with 112. It was the most SIUE digs as a team since the 2006 season.
SIUE now looks forward to its fourth straight home OVC match, looking to recover before facing Tennessee State with a 2 p.m. start.
"I want to make sure we are building on the things we are doing well," added Paulus.