BEAVER — When Eastern’s volleyball program joined the larger half of the Southern Ohio Conference, the Eagles knew what was in store.
In their first three conference games this year, Eastern suffered three losses … being swept by Minford and Northwest and dropping a five-set thriller to Oak Hill.
But coach Chelsea Howard kept pounding a message into her girls’ heads … just keep swinging. Wednesday evening, hosting West, that’s exactly what the Eagles did, and it paid off.
While the Senators certainly didn’t make it easy, Eastern gritted out a four-set win to pick up their first SOC II win — one Howard hopes is a confidence builder moving forward.
“We’re settling in. We didn’t play as well as I wanted us to play, but we’re finally gaining confidence in the little things,” Howard said. “We closed a set after getting beat in a set and that’s a big step. It was ugly at times but we still put things together as a team. That’s what we’ve been working on.”
After winning the first two sets by 25-16 and 25-18 finals, the Eagles dropped the third, 25-23.
At that point, it was gut check time.
Instead of hanging their heads and watching the wind disappear from their sails, the Eagles (2-3, 1-3 SOC II) regrouped and pieced together a match-sealing 25-20 victory.
“I told the girls coming into tonight that we just needed one win to boost our confidence,” Howard said. “We play South Webster on Friday we know they’re a good team also. So I told them we just needed one win and after that, it’s just playing our game each night.”
Wednesday’s win was led by senior Katie Newsome and sophomore Abby Cochenour. The duo made a habit of finding open spots on the floor while frustrating West (0-4, 0-3 SOC II) at the net.
“They’re finally stepping up into that leadership role and getting comfortable with their skill level,” Howard said of Newsome and Cochenour. “That’s something we’ve struggled with when it comes to those two. We switched the rotation going into today, just to change things up and give them a couple more swings. It paid off. I think they’re finally where they need to be.”
Cochenour had 12 kills, leading the Eagles, alongside 11 digs and 12 assists. Newsome tallied 17 digs and added four kills while Skylar White had seven kills, 12 assists and 20 digs. Andee Lester and Chloe Dixon also chipped in, posting 10 kills each.
As Howard mentioned, the road doesn’t get any easier for Eastern. The Eagles travel to South Webster Friday for yet another SOC II match while the Senators attempt to earn their first win Thursday evening, hosting Minford.
“We play [South Webster] every year and it’s a big rivalry game for us. We’ve got to come out and be smart,” Howard said. “They’re a very smart, well-coached team. They work together really well and they don’t give up easy points. We can’t give them any in return.”