Following a challenging pre-conference slate, Eastern Washington plays host to Montana, Montana State this weekend
With nine challenging non-conference matches in its rear-view mirror, the Eastern Washington University volleyball team now sets its sights on Big Sky Conference play, which opens up with home matches on Friday and Saturday (Sept. 18 and 19). The Eagles take on Montana and Montana State, respectively, at 7 those evenings.
Most recently, the Eagles played well in a trip to the Bay Area with its two defeats coming to a pair of teams who are either nationally ranked or receiving votes for the top-25 poll.
Following a couple tight sets in a 25-13, 25-23, 29-27 road loss to Saint Mary's, who is now 7-1 and receiving votes in the AVCA Coaches Top 25 Poll, the Eagles rallied to beat San Jose State 21-25, 25-22, 26-24, 25-20. Eastern then took 19-12 and 18-12 leads in the first and third sets, respectively, before falling on the road to No. 13 California 25-22, 25-19, 25-20.
The previous weekend, EWU defeated opponents from Conference USA (Houston) and the Western Athletic Conference (Nevada) by 3-1 scores before battling Arizona, the host of the Marriott University Park Wildcat Classic, in an exciting four-set affair that the undefeated Wildcats took 3-1. Arizona (8-0) is currently ranked 21st.
The Eagles opened its season on Aug. 28 with a 3-1 defeat of Missouri State. The Bears had played in the 2008 NCAA Tournament and are currently 7-4 with their other losses coming to No. 12 Oregon, Indiana and Ohio. Eastern's two losses that weekend came to two other teams that played in the NCAAs a year ago, the Ducks and San Francisco.
Montana will bring a 4-6 record into Friday's match. The Grizzlies most recently went 1-2 at the Montana Invitational, defeating North Dakota 3-2 and falling to Arizona State and SMU by 3-2 scores.
The last two times Montana has visited Eastern Washington, the teams battled in some extended affairs. In 2007, the teams played the second-highest scoring match in NCAA Division I history which saw the Eagles pull out a 30-26, 35-37, 40-38, 22-30, 17-15 decision. Last year, it appeared they were heading in the same direction until the Eagles took set four in convincing fashion in a 25-22, 27-29, 26-24, 25-13 win.
Eastern has won 13 straight from Montana in matches played in Cheney. However, in the last meeting between the teams, the Grizzlies prevailed a year ago in Missoula, 25-21, 25-23, 25-22, to snap an overall 18-match losing streak to Eastern Washington.
Montana State (2-7) is coming off a 2-1 performance at the CEFCU-Bradley Invitational where the Bobcats beat Coppin State 3-1 and UTEP 3-2, losing to host Bradley 3-1 in the middle match of the weekend's action.
The Bobcats are looking to snap a 36-match Big Sky losing streak. They first play at Portland State on Friday before making the trip to Cheney.
Eastern has won eight straight overall meetings with Montana State as well as eight consecutive match-ups to take place in Cheney.
In all home contests, the Eagles have won nine straight, going a perfect 9-0 at Reese Court a year ago.
Hills Up to Fourth in Kills Chart
Senior outside hitter Hayley Hills keeps climbing Eastern Washington's all-time kills chart. With 1,152 in her illustrious career, she is now in fourth place on the list.
Next up on the list is Kellie Glaus, who had 1,217 from 1992-95. In second is Janelle Ruen (1,268 from 1999-2002), while Kim Exner (1995-98) sholds the school mark of 1,860.
Hills is also currently second in school history, embedded into that slot with a 3.89 average. Holding the record is Exner (4.43), while in third is Juli Argotow (3.42).
Hills earned her 1,000th kill in a 3-1 win at Sacramento State on Nov. 21 of last year.
Coviare Earns All-Oregon Classic Team
Chenoa Coviare had an outstanding weekend for the Eagles and was rewarded for her efforts with All-Oregon Classic accolades.
In the three matches played from Aug. 28-29, she hit .365 (25-6-52) and contributed 1.20 blocks and 0.70 digs per set.
Coviare helped Eastern to a 3-1 win over Missouri State and tough-fought losses to No. 12 Oregon and San Francisco.
Coviare and Hamilton Named All-Tourney
For the second weekend in a row, Chenoa Coviare was named to an all-tournament team, this time at the Marriott University Park Wildcat Classic. She was joined on the squad by Ashley Hamilton.
Coviare had 2.25 kills and 0.83 blocks per set in Eastern's three matches at the tournament.
Arizona transfer Hamilton played well in her old stomping grounds, averaging 6.58 assists per set and hitting at a .296 clip (12-4-27).
The talented duo helped the Eagles to an impressive 2-1 showing at the tournament, which included 3-1 wins over Houston and Nevada and a good showing in a 3-1 loss to host Arizona, who is 6-0 and just entered the AVCA Coaches Top 25 Poll at No. 25.
Coviare and Hills Earn Tourney Honors
After helping the Eagles to a second-place showing at the Molten/Hilton Garden Inn Classic, Chenoa Coviare and Hayley Hills earned All-Tournament honors.
In the two matches, a 3-1 win over San Jose State and a 3-0 loss to host and 13th-ranked California, Coviare hit at a .343 clip (19-7-35) to go with 1.43 blocks per set.
Hills had a team-high 3.00 kills per set. She also contributed 2.14 digs per set as well as 0.29 blocks per set.
Against SJSU, Coviare had 12 kills and hit .455 (14-4-22), while Hills contributed 14 digs.
Versus the Golden Bears, Hills tallied 13 kills and hit .290 (13-4-31), while Coviare had three blocks.
Eagles Beat 2008 NCAA Participant
The Eagles started off their 2009 campaign on a high note, outlasting Missouri State 25-22, 25-20, 17-25, 25-21 at the Oregon Classic on Aug. 28.
The win was especially impressive, as the Bears played in the 2008 NCAA Tournament and had received votes in the AVCA Coaches Top 25 Preseason Poll.
Eastern Washington controlled the first two sets and then had to battle back from significant deficits in the third and fourth sets.
The Eagles did so successfully in set four, rallying from 5-0 and 10-3 deficits and then pulling away from a 21-21 tie with the final four points of the contest.
"I think we had a different focus after being up 2-0 instead of keeping our nose to the grindstone," head coach Miles Kydd said. "But we did a good job finishing and beat a top-50 team, which is significant since that is where we see ourselves."
Big Sky Championship in Cheney
After claiming the Big Sky Conference's regular-season title in 2008, the Eagles earned the right to play host to the 2009 Tournament.
The semifinals will take place at 5 and 7 p.m. on Nov. 27, while the title contest will take place at 7 the following evening.
The winner of that match will earn the league's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament, which starts the following weekend.
Big Sky Preseason Poll
In the Big Sky Coaches Preseason Poll, defending Big Sky Tournament champion Portland State, who finished just behind the Eagles in the regular-season standings a year ago, were picked first. The Vikings were followed, in order, by Eastern Washington, Northern Colorado, Montana, Weber State, Sacramento State, Northern Arizona, Idaho State and Montana State.