Fight for Postseason Continues, as Eagles Host Portland State Saturday

Eastern looking to avoid third-straight regular-season sweep by Vikings


Upcoming Games/Coverage

EWU vs. Portland State
Saturday, Nov. 12 - 7 p.m. PDT
Reese Court - Cheney Wash. 
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Only two weeks remain in the Big Sky Conference season, and there are still seven teams vying for four coveted spots in the postseason tourney. The Eastern Washington University volleyball team is currently in third place in the league standings with a 9-5 record. The one team it plays this weekend, Portland State, is in second at 10-4. The Eagles host PSU on Saturday (Nov. 12) at 7 p.m. on Reese Court.

The four teams with the best record at the end of the regular season advance to the 2011 Big Sky Conference tournament, held Nov. 25-26 in Portland, Ore. The Vikings earned the right to host this year's championship after winning the regular-season title in 2010. The winner of the BSC tourney earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Women's Volleyball Championship.

Although it seems Eastern has a good shot at finishing in the top four this season, there are still a number of consequential matches remaining between other teams in the Big Sky. One thing is for sure though - a win on Saturday gets Eastern that much closer.

"We have always felt that 10 wins gets you in," said EWU head coach Miles Kydd on his outlook for a postseason bid. "It's obviously a very close contest right now and no one is guaranteed a spot. But for us, all we can do is take care of business on our end. We can scoreboard watch all we want, but it doesn't really change what we're trying to do. We are focused on beating Portland State Saturday, and if we do that, we should be okay."

The first time these two teams met in the 2011 season, the Eagles lost in three swift sets, after allowing PSU to hit a .333 clip - the highest attack percentage recorded by an EWU opponent this season. The Vikings had 45 kills and only eight errors in 111 attempts, which compared to just 32 kills on 110 total swings for EWU. Eastern was also out-blocked in the match 9-3, which marked the worst blocking effort of the season for the red and white.

"I don't think Portland State is a particularly tough matchup for us," said Kydd. "They just had a couple of players who were set a lot of balls, and we didn't do a good job of stopping those specific players. We also hit really poorly in that match and made a lot of errors, which enabled them to get on a roll."

"We kind of take it as an affront that they handled us that easily," added Kydd. "We need to come back determined and with a little bit of an edge, because this is an important match for both teams. But we also feel like we owe them something."

That contest on Oct. 15 was at the tail-end of a five-match losing streak for the Eags. After losing 3-0 in the Rose City, EWU won its next five-consecutive conference matches.

The Vikings have swept the regular-season series against EWU in back-to-back seasons. The last time Eastern came away with a W in a match against Portland State was on Nov. 15, 2008.

Last year, in the meeting in Cheney, Eastern had a two-set lead on PSU, but ended up losing the match in five heartbreaking sets. Portland State recorded 13 of its 15 total blocks in the final three sets, while also picking up 61 of its 90 total digs. After hitting .275 in the first two sets, Eastern managed to record only 26 kills on 118 attempts in sets three, four and five for a .025 efficiency to close out the match.

Eagle Volleyball News & Notes

Big Sky Breakdown  - With two weeks remaining in the Big Sky Conference season, there are still seven teams vying for four coveted spots in the postseason tourney. Northern Colorado is currently atop the league standings with a 10-3 record.  The Bears are a half game ahead of No. 2 Portland State (10-4) and one and a half games ahead of Eastern (9-5), which sits in third. Sacramento State (7-5) is in fourth, but has played two less matches than PSU and EWU. Idaho State (6-6) is three and half games back in sixth place, while Montana and NAU are tied for seventh at 6-7. Weber State (2-10) and Montana State (6-7) are the only two teams already eliminated from postseason contention.

Streaking Through the Season - The 2011 season has been a "streaky" one for the Eastern Washington University volleyball team. The Eagles traded wins and losses through the first six matches of the year, but since then, the team has witnessed a very interesting pattern of streaks. From Sept. 3-10, Eastern lost three matches in a row to non-conference opponents...then the Eags won their next five-consecutive outings, including four-straight to open the Big Sky season....EWU followed that streak with five-straight losses, and then turned it around again with five-consecutive wins. That winning-streak was snapped however, in Eastern's most recent outing at Northern Colorado when the Bears swept EWU, 3-0. The Eagles are hoping that particular loss does not set in motion another streak though, as the team is eager for a win this Saturday (Nov. 12) against Portland State.

Niemeier Doubles-Up - Sophomore setter Lindsay Niemeier (Spokane, Wash.) has registered a conference-leading 15 double-doubles this season. At one point in the year, Niemeier had registered an assist/dig double-double in seven-consecutive matches, which tied for the longest streak of any player in the Big Sky this season. Niemeier tallied a season-high 42 assists against Southern Utah on Sept. 10, and tallied a season and career-high 20 digs against Idaho on Oct. 5.

Superior Serving - In the 2010 campaign, Eastern Washington ranked eighth in the conference in service aces. With a 0.96 aces per set average last season, the Eags were one of only two teams in the Big Sky to tally less than one ace per set. This year, however, Eastern has made serving a priority, and it has definitely paid off. The Eagles are currently third in the league with a 1.19 aces per set average. In addition, Eastern had the very best single-match serving performance of the year among Big Sky teams when it tallied 11 aces against Montana State on Sept. 24. Individually, sophomore setter Lindsay Niemeier (Spokane, Wash.) leads the conference in service aces, averaging 0.33 per set. That average also ranks among the top 125 in the nation. She is also tied for the top mark of aces in a single match with her five against Northern Colorado on Sept. 30. As a team, the Eagles have had five or more aces in 10 matches this year, which is two more than they had in the entire 2010 campaign.

Home Court Advantage - The Eastern Washington University volleyball team has placed in the top 40 nationally in average home attendance in 11 of the past 14 years. The high-water mark of 1,641 fans per contest, which ranked 12th nationally, came in 2003. The squad has earned a 119-22 home record during that time span, for an impressive winning percentage of 84.4 when playing at Reese Court.

Eagles Dangerous in the Marathon Match - Although five-setters are not the ideal way to win a match, it seems to work for the 2011 Eagles. Eastern has played in 10 five-set matches already this season, and has prevailed in eight of the 10, which includes five in conference. In its most recent five-set victory at Northern Arizona (Nov. 3), the Eagles set a new school record for five-set wins in a season with eight. 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 into Thursday's contest.

If Statistics Tell You Anything ... In league-only statistics, Eastern ranks among the top four Big Sky teams in six of seven categories. Heading into the final two weeks of the season, Eastern is second in aces (1.35/set), third in kills (12.93/set), assists (12.16/set), digs (16.98/set), hitting percentage (.194) and opponent hitting percentage (.170). As the season winds down, EWU is hopeful these statistics will directly correlate with the actual league standings, because in the Big Sky Conference, only the top four teams advance to the postseason tournament.

Kellerman's Career Weekend Leads to Second POW Honor of Season - For the second time this year, outside hitter Cora Kellerman was tabbed as the Big Sky Conference Player of the Week for matches played Oct. 24-30. The junior from La Conner, Wash., led Eastern in two wins against Montana and Montana State. In addition to helping EWU's quest for Big Sky tournament bid, the victories also kept alive two long-standing streaks, as EWU earned its 16th-straight win against the Grizzlies at Reese Court and the 11th-consecutive win at home versus MSU. Kellerman averaged 4.89 kills per set on a stellar .384 attack percentage, and had 28 digs (3.11/set) and four blocks. She scored 46 points for her team in the two matches combined, which was 18 more than the next closest person. In Eastern's thrilling five-set victory against Montana (Oct. 28), Kellerman posted a career-high 25 kills, and had only four errors on 63 total swings. She had five kills alone in the decisive fifth set, while hitting a .417 clip. She also had 11 digs for her sixth double-double of the season. Kellerman's 25 kills in that match is the third-best offensive performance turned in by any player in the Big Sky this season. The win against the Grizzlies also gave Eastern its first regular-season series sweep of UM since 2007. The following night against Montana State, Kellerman picked up right where she left off on Friday, tallying 19 kills, 17 digs and four blocks. She had just two errors on 36 total attempts for a career-best .472 attack percentage.

Block Party - In 17 of 25 matches this season, Eastern has either out-blocked or had the exact same blocks as its opponent. The Eagles have tallied double-digit blocks in 12 contests, including a season-high 17 against Northern Arizona (Nov. 3), which was far and away the best team blocking performance of any Big Sky squad this season. EWU currently ranks in the top 80 nationally in blocking.

Three-Deep - After being sidelined with a knee injury for the first three weeks of the Big Sky season, senior middle blocker Chenoa Rossi-Childress is back on the court, giving Eastern three dangerous threats in the middle. Besides its senior leader, the Eagles have a pair of talented freshmen in Amanda Brown and Talia Fermantez, who both gained invaluable experience while Rossi-Childress was on the bench. Brown averages 1.33 kills per set and 1.00 blocks, while Fermantez boasts a 1.61 kills per set average to go along with 0.82 blocks. And in the 50 sets she has played this season, Rossi-Childress has averaged 1.52 kills and 1.16 blocks.

Petroni Goes Off Against Griz - In both regular-season matches against Montana, senior libero Lindsey Petroni (Spokane, Wash.) has tallied 30 or more digs. In the most recent meeting on Oct. 28, she had exactly 30 in EWU's 3-2 victory in Cheney. In the road match in Missoula, Petroni had 33 digs in another 3-2 for EWU. Those 33 pickups on Sept. 24 marked the fifth-best defensive effort of any player in the league in the 2011 season, and it tied her career-high mark, as Petroni also had 33 against Idaho on Sept. 3, 2009. The Spokane, Wash., native is one of just two players in EWU history to have at least five 30+ dig performances in a career.

Freshmen Phenoms - This season, Eastern has relied heavily on three talented freshmen. EWU has a pair of freshmen middle blockers who have made a major impact in their first year in red and white. Amanda Brown (Hacienda Heights, Calif.) has played in all 25 matches of the 2011 season, which includes 10 starts. She is averaging 1.33 kills and a team-leading 1.00 blocks per set. She has posted double-digit kills in three matches, including a career-high 12 at Montana on Sept. 24. Her counterpart on the court, freshman Talia Fermantez (Honolulu, Hawaii), contributes 1.61 kills per set on a .259 attack percentage, and 0.82 blocks. Fermantez has been especially strong in conference play, averaging 1.80 kills and 0.89 blocks per set. She had a career night against Montana State (Oct. 29), as she posted 13 kills on a .462 percentage and nine blocks. Besides its two freshmen middles, the Eagles have also started a rookie on the outside in 24 of the 25 matches this season. Kelsey Julian (Kennewick, Wash.) averages 0.98 kills per set and 0.62 blocks. She has twice had a career-high seven kills against UNLV (Sept. 10) and Montana (Oct. 28), and has twice posted a career-high of eight blocks against Washington State (Aug. 27) at Northern Arizona (Nov. 3).

Nine In a Row for No. 7 - Junior Shelby Puckett (Latah, Wash), who wears #7 for the Eagles, had a nine-consecutive double-digit kill matches from Sept. 9 - Oct. 1. She has tallied double-digit kills in 15 of 23 matches this season, including a season and career-high 22 against Boise State on Aug. 31. On the year, Puckett's 2.98 kills per set average ranks seventh in the conference. She also averages 0.61 blocks and 0.27 aces per set, for a points per set average of 3.60 - which is fifth in the conference and among the top 250 for all Division I players across the nation.

Career-Night for Wright - Sophomore Ashley Wright (Leavenworth, Wash.) has had two career outings in the 2011 campaign. Against Montana State on Sept. 23, she posted a then-career-high 14 kills on .480 hitting, and had a career-high four service aces to lead Eastern to a thrilling five-set victory over the Bobcats. Wright also had six digs and one block in the match. Against Northern Arizona on Nov. 3, Wright topped her career-high kills mark with 16 against the Lumberjacks. She hit a .300 clip in that match and had four digs and three blocks to help EWU to a crucial 3-2 win on the road.

Kellerman Lays Claim to Big Sky POW - After helping Eastern capture back-to-back victories at home against Weber State and Idaho State, outside hitter Cora Kellerman (La Conner, Wash.) was selected as the Big Sky Conference Player of the Week. It was the first POW award of Kellerman's career and the first student-athlete from Eastern to be honored in the 2011-12 campaign. In the two matches played over the weekend, Kellerman averaged 3.75 kills per set on a stellar .310 attack percentage. She also averaged 2.00 digs per set and posted a flawless serve percentage with zero service errors on 32 total attempts. Kellerman scored a team-high 33 points for the Eagles in the two matches combined. In Eastern's thrilling five-set victory over Idaho State on Saturday (Sept. 17), Kellerman registered a game-high 18 kills. But even more impressive than the total number was her efficiency in the marathon match, as she had zero errors on 44 total attack attempts. In the 3-0 sweep of Weber State the night before, Kellerman had 12 kills, seven digs and one solo block.

Puckett Honored for Performance in Vegas - Junior Shelby Puckett (Latah, Wash.) became the third Eagle to be honored on an All-Tournament team this season, as she was selected to the UNLV Invitational All-Tourney team. Puckett averaged 3.29 kills and 1.57 digs per set, while also tallying 10 total blocks in Eastern's three matches in Las Vegas, Nev. She also had a team-high five service aces, including three pivotal ones in EWU's dramatic five-set victory over future Big Sky member Southern Utah. She had 17 kills, five digs and three blocks in that match as well. She averaged 4.00 points per set for EWU – the most of any player on the team.

Rossi-Childress Named to Wildcat Classic All-Tourney Team - Senior Chenoa Rossi-Childress (Las Vegas, Nev.) was one of six players named to the Wildcat Classic All-Tournament Team, held Sept. 2-3 in Tucson, Ariz. In the three matches played in Tucson, Ross-Childress tallied 17 kills on a team-high .275 attack percentage. She also led Eastern's blocking efforts with 11 total. She scored 22.5 points for EWU during the weekend.

Eagles Prevail in Early Home Opener - Not since the 2004 season had Eastern played a home match at Reese Court prior to the start of the Big Sky Conference season. This year, the Eagles had the privilege of hosting an early-season match in Cheney, and that little bit of home-court advantage certainly helped the Eags pull through in the clutch. In the 2011 home opener on Aug. 31, the Eagles outlasted Boise State in five exciting sets. The Eags recorded a then-season-high 12.5 total team blocks, to go along with another then-season-high 84 digs. Eastern was also sharp on the offensive side of the ball, as it recorded the second best attack percentage of the season at .292 (66-17-168). Junior Shelby Puckett posted a career-high 22 kills with only four errors in 45 attempts (.400), while Kellerman had 21 kills and a career-high 20 digs, which as the first time in her career the La Conner, Wash., native had 20 or more tallies in two different statistical categories.

Kellerman Earns Eastern's First All-Tourney Honor of 2011 - After leading EWU with 34 total kills and 31 digs in Eastern's opening weekend, junior captain Cora Kellerman (La Conner, Wash.) was named to the 2011 Seattle University Fall Volley All-Tournament Team. Kellerman averaged 3.09 kills per set in the three matches played in Seattle. She led the team to a spectacular five-set victory over rival Washington State with a then-career-high 20 kills and 17 digs. Six of her 20 kills came in the decisive fifth set. Kellerman also recorded a .957 serve percentage, as she served 47 times in the tournament with only two errors.

Smart Cookies - For the second year in a row, the Eastern Washington University volleyball team earned the AVCA Team Academic Award for its superior work in the classroom. To be eligible for the award, teams must maintain at least a 3.00 grade point average during the academic year. With a team GPA of 3.31, the Eagles were one of 92 Division I programs honored for the 2010-11 year. Eastern was also recognized by the Big Sky Conference, as the team tied for the highest GPA of any squad, men's or women's, in the Big Sky. In both the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons, the Eagles had 11 members earn BSC All-Academic honors, which was the most for any volleyball squad in the conference both years. The volleyball team also has five members in the EWU honors program, which is the most athletes from any of Eastern's 14 varsity sports. Seven volleyball players boast a cumulative GPA above 3.50, including six of seven starters this season.

Wright Lays Claim to 2011 Emtman Award - Sophomore Ashley Wright (Leavenworth, Wash.) was selected as the 2011 recipient of the Emtman award - an honor bestowed to one volleyball student-athlete who exhibits a strong work ethic, perseverance and a team-first attitude during the spring season. The award is administered by EWU head strength and conditioning coach, Nate Brookreson. She is the third recipient of the Emtman Award, which was introduced in Miles Kydd's first season as head coach. Junior Shelby Puckett received the honor in 2010, while former Eagle Jacque Brown was the 2009 inaugural award winner.

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