Eagles have chance to move into second on Saturday when Eagles have rematch with Northern Arizona on Senior Night
Senior Hayley Hills had 17 kills and 14 digs as the Eastern Washington University volleyball team swept co-Big Sky Conference leader Northern Colorado Friday (Nov. 13) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. The scores were 27-25, 25-21, 25-19.
Eastern snapped a two-match losing streak, and now stands at 10-4 in the Big Sky Conference and 16-9 overall. On Saturday (Nov. 14), Eastern hosts Northern Arizona on Senior Night at 7 p.m. Pacific time. The Eagles have two league matches left before hosting the four-team Big Sky Conference Championships Nov. 27-28 at Reese Court.
"I think overall Hayley Hills played really well -- she needed that bounce-back game and that was good," said Eastern head coach Miles Kydd. "We defended our home court and we have one more chance tomorrow.
"It felt a lot like when we played them down there," he said of his team's season sweep of the Bears. "We played pretty good, but we just gave up stretches of points with two or three unforced errors. Our six-point lead would become a two-point lead -- that is the part we need to clean up."
Chenoa Coviare added 13 kills and eight block assists, and JaNae Mortensen chipped in nine digs. Setter Ashley Hamilton had 39 assists, four digs and five block assists.
Kydd thought the play of Coviare and Hills was the key.
"This was a flip-flop I think of last weekend when we lost to Portland State," he said. "Because my comment to our coaching staff was when your best players are not your best players, you are going to struggle. So last weekend they were not our best players and tonight they were. If they do well then it helps the rest of the team."
The Eagles out-hit Northern Colorado .280 to .221, led by the .414 hitting percentage of Hills. The Eagles also had 9 1/2 blocks to just four for the Bears.
Eastern took a 5-0 lead in the first set, but the Bears battled back to knot the score at 22. However, Eastern scored the last two points of the set on a pair of kills by Hills.
The second set was tied at 10, but Eastern opened a 20-15 lead. A kill by Hills and her block assist along with Sara Todorovich provided EWU's final points.
The final set was tied at nine before the Eagles took the lead for good. Eastern built a six-point cushion before scoring the final three points for the 25-19 win.
Eastern is currently third in the league standings behind Portland State at 12-2 and UNC at 11-3, and those two teams square off Saturday in Portland. Having defeated the Bears earlier this season in Greeley, Colo., victories by Eastern and PSU Saturday would move Eastern into a second-place tie with the Bears.
However, a UNC win would keep alive Eastern's hopes of repeating as Big Sky Conference regular season champions.
Saturday will be a rematch of a five-set match the Lumberjacks won on Oct. 15. Eastern responded with a four-match winning streak, but had lost its last two matches to Montana (3-1 on Oct. 31) and Portland State (3-0 on Nov. 6) prior to Friday's win. The Vikings also defeated EWU 3-1 in Portland on Oct. 9.
"We don't think we played very well and we're about to find out what the difference will be in the rematch," said Kydd, whose team allowed NAU to hit .556 in a pivotal second-set victory on Oct. 15. "This is a match we feel like we should come out on the positive side. They beat us once before, and they hit a higher percentage than what we would like to allow. But we were able to force it to a fifth game and then it's always a crapshoot."
Following this week's matches, Eastern plays a non-conference match at Washington State on Nov. 17 and then concludes regular season play in the Big Sky at Sacramento State on Nov. 21.
Eagles to Honor Four Seniors on Saturday -- Four seniors -- all of them starters for the Eagles -- will be honored in pre-game ceremonies prior to Eastern's game Saturday versus Northern Arizona. Leading the way is Hayley Hills, who ranks second in school history and in the top 20 all-time in the Big Sky Conference with 1,383 career kills. She has started all 25 Eastern matches this season and is averaging 3.63 kills and 2.66 digs per set with a .166 hitting percentage.
Ashley Hamilton has also started all 25 matches and is averaging 9.48 assists and 1.30 kills per set, and Amanda Yausie has started 18 of 24 matches. She is averaging 1.67 digs per set while JaNae Mortensen, a defensive specialist who is the team's libero, is averaging a team-high 3.20 digs per set. Yausie has a team-leading 20 ace serves, followed by Hills with 18, Mortensen with 17 and Hamilton with 15.
"All four of our graduating seniors are starters and that speaks well for them," said Eastern head coach Miles Kydd. "They have made a tremendous commitment to Eastern and have been major contributors to our program. We hate to lose such a great group of seniors, but that's the nature of college athletics -- they come and then they go."
#1 - JaNae Mortensen - DS - Pleasant Grove, Utah (Snow College / Pleasant Grove H.S. '06)
#3 - Ashley Hamilton - S - Alpine, Utah (Arizona / Lone Peak H.S. '06)
#9 - Amanda Yausie - S - Colonsay, Saskatchewan (Colonsay H.S. '06)
#13 - Hayley Hills - OH - Quesnel, B.C. (Correlieu Secondary '06)
Eagles to Host Big Sky Championships -- After claiming the Big Sky Conference's regular-season title in 2008, the Eagles earned the right to host the league's 2009 Tournament.
The semifinals will take place at 5 and 7 p.m. on Nov. 27, while the title contest will start at 7 p.m. the following evening. The winner of that match will earn the league's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament, which starts the following weekend.
The Eagles previously hosted the tournament in 2004, 2003, 2002 and 1989.