Eastern battles in first and third sets, but come up short against the 2009 Conference USA Champions
The Eastern Washington University Eagles had moments of brilliance in their final outing of the Pepperdine Asics Classic, but it was not enough to stop the Rice Owls, as the team from Houston, Texas defeated EWU 3-0 (25-20, 25-14, 25-22) on Saturday (Sept. 4) in Firestone Fieldhouse. After suffering three losses at the tournament in Malibu, Eastern will return home with a 1-5 overall record, while Rice improves its season mark to 3-3.
Junior Lindsey Petroni had a season-high 17 digs in the three-set match, while senior Jacque Brown contributed 11, but the Owls still managed to find a way around the Eagle defense, as they tallied 44 kills, with only 12 errors. Eastern had 33 kills, the most turned in by the Eagles in each of the three matches in Malibu.
“We competed better in this match than we had previously in the tournament,” said EWU head coach Miles Kydd. “The girls worked together with the same purpose tonight, and found that they will have success when working as a collective group. We played really strong for long stretches in the match, but suffered a few mental breakdowns that Rice capitalized on.”
Eastern jumped out to a 9-7 lead to open the first set, but Rice’s Ashleigh McCord responded with four consecutive kills, giving her team a 12-10 advantage. The Eagles were able to tie the game at 14-14 and again at 17-17, but a late run by the Owls enabled them to nab the set 25-20.
Sophomore Shelby Puckett hammered two kills to start the second set, but an inopportune service error by Eastern quickly shifted the momentum in favor of the Owls. Rice opened up a 17-9 lead, forcing Kydd to call a timeout. Senior Allison Reinstein had an emphatic kill coming out of the break, but Rice was able to answer with two kills of their own from McCord and senior Justyna Brewczyk. Eastern then committed four unforced errors to give Rice a 25-14 victory.
The third set featured 11 ties and six lead changes before Rice managed to pull away with a 25-22 decision. Eastern had a strong run in the middle of the set, after a kill from redshirt-freshmen Ashley Wright and a stuff block by Puckett and senior Chenoa Coviare gave the Eagles a 14-11 edge. Rice head coach Genny Volpe called a timeout, which proved beneficial as the Owls scored nine of the next 12 points.
Puckett led the Eagle offense with her .240 attack percentage. The sophomore from Latah, Wash., tallied 10 kills and only four errors. She also picked up nine digs for the Red and White. Coviare ended the match with five kills and a team-leading three blocks, while Reinstein, Brown and freshman Esther Warren also chipped in five kills.
Eastern will next travel to Pullman, Wash., where it faces the Cougars of Washington State on Thursday (Sept. 9) at 7 p.m., followed by the Cal Poly Mustangs on Friday at 1 p.m. as part of the Nike Cougar Challenge Tournament.