Preview: Challenging Road Trip Continues Tuesday

Preview: Challenging Road Trip Continues Tuesday
EUREKA, Ill. -- Following a busy week that included five matches over six days in four different cities, the Eureka College volleyball team will continue a difficult early-season stretch this week. The Red Devils will visit long-time in-state nemesis Monmouth on Tuesday at 7 p.m., followed by back-to-back St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference matches this Saturday in St. Louis against host Fontbonne (11 a.m.) and Spalding (1 p.m.).
Eureka opened the season 1-4, dropping the home opener on Sept. 4 to USCAA St. Mary-of-the-Woods in three games. The Red Devils followed with three consecutive road defeats, including a five-game setback at Knox last Tuesday.
The Red Devils recovered from a Saturday-morning loss to Webster for a three-game sweep of Blackburn in St. Louis. The victory was Eureka's third straight over the Beavers.
Through five matches, Eureka ranks fourth among SLIAC schools with 10.12 kills per set. The Red Devils also rank fourth in assists per set (9.65), fourth in digs per set (17.24) and fifth in hitting percentage (.113). 
Senior outside hitter Anna Crank leads EC and ranks third in the league with 3.53 kills per set. Junior Lexi Dooley follows Crank with 31 kills and 2.07 kills per set, followed by junior Heather Robinson with 29 kills and 1.71 kills per set. Dooley is attacking at a team-best .191 clip, while Robinson has proven to be a versatile asset for head coach Becca Idell, compiling 63 assists and 43 digs through the season's first five contests.
Senior setter Meagan Hanney has collected a team-high 70 assists and ranks ninth in the conference with 4.12 assists per set. Junior libero Jordan Detmers is pacing the Red Devils with 70 total digs, and freshman Caitlin Miller has 10 total blocks.
Eureka will its season-long stretch of seven consecutive matches away from home on Tuesday when the Red Devils visit Midwest Conference member Monmouth at 7 p.m. at Glennie Gymnasium.
The Fighting Scots are 1-6 through the first six matches, the lone victory being a three-set sweep of SLIAC opponent Iowa Wesleyan in Monmouth on Sept. 2. MC, which also dropped a five-set decision to SLIAC opponent Principia on Sept. 2, lost all four matches of a weekend tournament hosted by Rose-Hulman in Terre Haute, Ind. Monmouth lost in sweeps to host Rose-Hulman, NAIA Williams Woods and North Central (Ill.) and also lost a five-set match to Anderson.
Becca Dabroski has compiled a team-high 60 kills through the team's first seven matches. The 6-foot junior middle hitter from McHenry, Ill. has a .327 hitting percentage and also leads the Scots with 18 total blocks. Sophomore Laura Dulee does most of the setting to the tune of 99 assists, and sophomore Carly Bergerhouse fuels the MC back row with 170 digs. Monmouth has a team hitting percentage of .124 and averages 9.8 kills per set. Other set averages include 7.6 assists, 0.8 service aces, 20.2 digs and 1.4 blocks.
Kari Shimmin, a 1997 Monmouth graduate and the winningest coach in program history, is her 19th season directing the Scots. Shimmin earned the Midwest Conference Coach of the Year award after guiding the Fighting Scots to their first conference title since 1982. She is the longest serving coach of a Monmouth women's athletics program in the history of the institution.
Eureka and Monmouth have played 22 times since 1997. The Red Devils swept the Fighting Scots last season at the Reagan Athletic Complex to snap a 14-match losing streak to MC that dated back to Oct. 28, 2000. Eureka will be in search of its first win at Monmouth in at least two decades.
The Red Devils will travel to St. Louis for the second consecutive weekend when EC visits Fontbonne at 11 a.m. on Saturday, the first of back-to-back league matches inside FBU's Mabee Gymnasium.
Fontbonne enters the week with a 1-6 overall record and a winless 0-3 mark against SLIAC opponents. Since their lone victory of the campaign over Knox on Sept. 2, the Griffins have dropped three straight SLIAC contests, including a sweep to Greenville and a four-set loss to Spalding last Saturday in Jacksonville, Ill. Fontbonne will host MacMurray Tuesday before the Red Devils visit this Saturday.
Junior Victoria Curtice has logged a team-high 55 kills, 22 blocks and a .305 hitting percentage. The Griffins rank third among SLIAC schools with 18.0 digs and 1.81 blocks per set, but have allowed a league-worst 33 service aces in three conference matches. FBU's overall team hitting percentage of .131 ranks fourth in the SLIAC.
Meredith Heater is in her sixth season directing the FBU volleyball program. The 2004 Greenville graduate entered the 2017 campaign with a 58-91 record, but piloted the Griffins to an 11-7 SLIAC mark and a SLIAC Tournament bid in 2015, Fontbonne's first appearance in the league's annual postseason since 2009.
Eureka has an 8-16 record against Fontbonne since 2002. The Griffins dominated a five-year period in which FBU beat the Red Devils eight consecutive times from October 2012 through October 2016, but Eureka snapped that skid with a four-set neutral-site victory over the Griffins on Oct. 29, 2016 in Carlinville, Ill. EC will be in search of its first true road win over Fontbonne since a four-gamer on Sept. 15, 2012.
Eureka's second match on Saturday will be against traditional SLIAC power Spalding at 1 p.m. inside Mabee Gymnasium.
Spalding owns a 2-5 overall record but won two of its first three league matches last weekend. The Golden Eagles were swept Friday night at Principia, but recovered for a five-set win at MacMurray and a four-game triumph over Fontbonne on Saturday in Jacksonville, Ill. SU will play three times this week before its Saturday afternoon bout with Eureka, including SLIAC matchups with Webster and Westminster.
The 2017 season marks the 20th campaign for Spalding head coach Bridget Yates. The former Hanover student-athlete led Spalding to 15 consecutive winning seasons and was voted the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Coach of the Year in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2004 and 2006 prior to SU's move to Division III in 2009. Yates also led the Golden Eagles to four consecutive USCAA National Tournament Final appearances, winning the National Championship in 2008. Yates guided SU to a share of the SLIAC title in 2010. The Golden Eagles have also been to two SLIAC Tournaments, including an appearance in the title match in 2014.
The Red Devils are still in search of their first-ever victory over Spalding. The Golden Eagles are a perfect 16-0 against EC since joining the league in 2009. All but two of the 16 previous victories have come in three sets.