Eastern Opens Important Road Trip With Loss to League Leaders

With playoff berth hanging in the balance, Eagles fall to 6-8 in the Big Sky

With its hopes to qualify for the Big Sky Conference Tournament coming down to its final three matches of the season, the Eastern Washington University volleyball team took a step in the wrong direction by getting swept in three sets by Northern Colorado on Thursday (Nov. 11) at Butler-Hancock Arena in Greeley, Colo. The scores were 25-20, 25-15, 25-20.

Eastern fell to 6-8 in the conference with matches left to play at Northern Arizona on Saturday (Nov. 13) and at home against Sacramento State on Nov. 20. The Eagles are 7-17 overall, while the Bears improved to 13-1 in the league and 22-5 overall.

Eastern finished with just 29 kills in the game, led by eight from Shelby Puckett and seven by Alysha Cook. Northern Colorado had 44, led by the 14 of Ashley Lichtenberg and eight by Kelley Arnold.

"Alysha played well tonight, but we couldn't seem to get anything else going," said EWU head coach Miles Kydd. "We came out really flat, and struggled to get into a rhythm after the sluggish start."

The Eagles hit at just a .093 clip while the Bears hit .216. Lindsey Petroni led the Eagles with 10 digs and Julie Stephenson had 17 for UNC.

There was a moment of hope in the first set, as the Eagles mounted an impressive comeback after trailing 22-13. Junior defensive specialist Amy VanderWel served six points in a row to bring the Eagles within four at 23-19. During the run, Alysha Cook had two authoritative blocks, while Brown added a kill. Unfortunately, UNC's Arnold was able to thwart Eastern's momentum with back-to-back kills, which sealed the victory 25-20 for UNC.

The second set featured seven ties and three lead changes, while the final stanza had three lead changes and three ties, but the Bears came out on top in both sets.

The Eagles are currently in sixth place in the BSC, but entered Thursday's action only one game from the teams in third and fourth. Only the top four teams advance to the Big Sky Conference Tournament on Nov. 26 and 27 in Portland, Ore.

Northern Colorado and Portland State have already punched their tickets to postseason play, as both teams have nearly flawless records at 13-1 and 11-2, respectively. Idaho State and Montana are tied for the No. 3 spot with a 7-6 record, while Sacramento State now has one game lead on EWU with its 6-6 mark. Northern Arizona, which was swept 3-0 Thursday by PSU, is behind EWU at 5-9 in the league and 9-15 overall.

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