Eagles Escape Flagstaff with Critical 3-2 Win Against Lumberjacks
Three Eagles notch double-doubles and team records season-high 17 blocks, as Eastern captures school-record eighth five-set victory of season
Not this time.
In a dramatic Big Sky Conference showdown on Thursday (Nov. 3) in Flagstaff, Ariz., the Eastern Washington University women's volleyball team avoided a repeat of the heartbreaking 3-2 loss to Northern Arizona on Oct. 1.
In that devastating contest at Reese Court, the Lumberjacks rallied from a two-sets-to-none deficit to beat the Eagles in five. It looked like the Lumberjacks might be headed for another upset on Thursday after the home team rallied again from a 2-0 hole, but the resilient Eagles found a way this time to close it out in the fifth, resulting in an important 3-2 (25-22,25-23,25-27,22-25,15-10) road win. Eastern has now won five-straight BSC matches.
With several teams still in the running for a postseason bid, Eastern (13-11, 9-4) took one giant step forward, as it is now tied with Portland State for second place in the Big Sky standings. The Eagles are a half-game behind league-leading Northern Colorado, which EWU will face on Saturday (Nov. 5) in Greeley. The four teams with the best records at the end of the regular-season advance to the Big Sky Tournament, held Nov. 25-26 in Portland, Ore.
Nothing came easy for either team on Thursday at the Rolle Activity Center. Through the first four sets, there were 32 ties and 15 lead changes. Eastern took the first two after holding NAU to a .136 attack percentage. The Lumberjacks returned the favor though, as EWU managed to only hit a combined .051 clip in sets three and four.
But in the decisive fifth, Eastern found its groove, recording 11 kills and only two errors in 19 total attempts, which compared to just seven kills on 21 swings for NAU. The Eagles also held a 10-3 advantage in digs, and after committing eight service errors in the first four sets, Eastern was perfect from behind the line in the fifth.
The Eagles set a new school record for five-set wins in a season, as the team has now prevailed in eight of its 10 this year. The previous record was seven in the 1989 and 2007 seasons. Eastern also handed Northern Arizona its first five-set loss of the year, as the Lumberjacks were 6-0 in marathon matches coming in to Thursday's contest.
Led by true freshman Kelsey Julian, Eastern recorded a season-high 17 total team blocks in the match. Julian, a native of Kennewick, Wash., had a career-high eight. Talia Fermantez, another true freshman, added seven blocks for EWU, while also contributing seven kills.
Junior Cora Kellerman, the reigning Big Sky Player of the Week, led the Eagles offensively with 21 kills on a .255 attack percentage. She also had 18 digs for her third-straight double-double.
Junior Shelby Puckett also posted her third-consecutive double-double, as she finished with 14 kills and 18 pickups - three of which were in the fifth set.
Sophomore Ashley Wright had the best offensive performance of her career, as the Leavenworth, Wash., native tallied 16 kills on a .300 clip. She also added four digs and three blocks.
Sophomore setter Lindsay Niemeier, who leads the conference in double-doubles, earned her 15th of the season after tallying 24 assists and 10 digs. And senior libero Lindsey Petroni had her third-straight 20+ dig outing, as she finished with a match-high 23.