In a battle for fourth in the Big Sky standings, Eastern looks to snap four-match losing skid on the road against defending regular-season champs
As the first half of the Big Sky Conference season comes to a close, the Eastern Washington University volleyball team will look to take a firm hold of fourth-place on Saturday (Oct. 15) when it plays Portland State at the Peter W. Stott Center in Portland, Ore.
The Eagles and Vikings are currently tied for fourth in the Big Sky standings with a 4-3 league record. Eastern and PSU have nearly identical overall records as well, with Eastern coming in at 8-10 and Portland State a half-game behind at 8-11.
Both teams also enter the weekend on a slight losing skid, as Eastern has dropped its last four-consecutive matches, and Portland State its last two. The Eagles and Vikings both suffered a 3-0 sweep at the hands of Sac State in their most recent outing.
Portland State is the defending co-Big Sky Regular-Season Champion, but the Vikings have quite a different look this year after the departure of Big Sky MVP Whitney Phillips. To fill that void on the outside, PSU has turned to junior Megan Ellis, who averages 3.31 kills per set and 2.65 digs.
The Vikings also returned their All-Big Sky First-Team setter, Garyn Schlatter, who averages 7.84 assists, 1.47 kills and 2.11 digs.
Since the start of the Big Sky season, the Eagles have maintained a slight edge over Portland State in kills, assists, blocks, digs and service aces. Eastern also ranks third in the conference in opponent hitting percentage (.171), compared to Portland State, which ranks seventh at .191.
Eastern leads the all-time series with PSU, 26-19, and in Big Sky meetings, the red and white own a 23-7 advantage. But Portland State has had the edge as of late, winning the last five in a row. In the 2010 series, the Vikings swept EWU at the Stott Center, and then after Eastern built a two-sets-to-none lead in the meeting in Cheney, the Vikings rallied back for a bitter 3-2 upset.
Eagle Volleyball News & Notes
Niemeier Doubles-Up - Sophomore setter Lindsay Niemeier (Spokane, Wash.) has registered a conference-leading 12 double-doubles this season, which is three more than the next closest player in the Big Sky. She has had a double-double of assists and digs in the last seven-consecutive outings - another league-leading streak. Niemeier had a season-high 42 assists against Southern Utah on Sept. 10, and tallied a career-high 20 digs against Idaho on Oct. 5.
Petroni has 30 or More x Four - Senior libero Lindsey Petroni (Spokane, Wash.) tallied 33 digs in Eastern's 3-2 win at Montana on Sept. 24. Those 33 pickups 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 three players in EWU history to have at least four 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 18 matches of the 2011 season, which includes 10 starts. She is averaging 1.40 kills and a team-leading 1.10 blocks per set. She has posted double-digit kills in three matches, including a career-high 12 at Montana on Sept. 24. She has had five or more blocks in five of Eastern's last seven outings. Her counterpart on the court, freshman Talia Fermantez (Honolulu, Hawaii), contributes 1.49 kills per set and 0.81 blocks. Fermantez has been especially strong in conference play, averaging 1.75 kills and 0.93 blocks per set. She has had two double-digit kill outings, including a career-high a 13 on a .310 hitting percentage against Montana on Sept. 24. Besides its two freshmen middles, the Eagles have also started a rookie on the outside in 17 of 18 matches thus far in the season. Kelsey Julian (Kennewick, Wash.) averages 0.91 kills per set and 0.64 blocks. She posted a career-high seven kills and six blocks against UNLV on Sept. 10.
Superior Serving - In the 2010 season, Eastern Washington ranked eighth in the conference in service aces. With a 0.96 aces per set average, 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 now third in the league with a 1.23 aces per set average. Eastern also owns the very best single-match serving performance of the year among all Big Sky teams with its 11 aces against Montana State on Sept. 24. Eastern's also owns the top individual mark, as sophomore setter Lindsay Niemeier (Spokane, Wash.) tallied a conference-leading five aces against Northern Colorado on Sept. 30. As a team, the Eagles have had five or more aces in eight matches already this year, which is as many as they had in the entire 2010 campaign.
If Statistics Tell You Anything ... In league-only statistics, Eastern Washington ranks among the top three Big Sky teams in six of seven categories. After four weeks of conference play, Eastern is second in assists (1.59/set) and service aces (1.60/set), and third in kills (12.93/set), blocks (2.42/set), hitting percentage (.194) and opponent hitting percentage (.171). Hopefully, as the season continues, 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.
Block Party - In 14 of 18 matches this season, Eastern has either out-blocked or had the same number of blocks as its opponent. The Eagles have tallied double-digit blocks in 10 contests, and have only had less than eight total team blocks in two matches. EWU is currently the No. 3 blocking team in the Big Sky, averaging 2.43 blocks per set, which also ranks in the top 60 nationally. Eastern's freshman middle blocker, Amanda Brown (Hacienda Heights, Calif.), averages 1.10 blocks per set to rank among the top 100 in the nation.
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 eight five-set matches already this season, and has prevailed in six of the eight, which includes three-in-a-row in the first two weeks of conference play. In three of its six five-set victories, Eastern has held its opponent to less than 10 points in the decisive fifth set.
Nine In a Row for No. 7 - Junior Shelby Puckett (Latah, Wash), who wears No. 7, had a nine-consecutive double-digit kill matches from Sept. 9 - Oct. 1. She has tallied double-digit kills in 13 of 18 matches this season, including a season and career-high 22 against Boise State on Aug. 31. On the year, Puckett's 3.12 kills per set average ranks sixth in the conference and among the top 210 in the nation. Puckett also averages 0.82 blocks aces and 0.25 aces per set, for a points per set average of 3.77 - which is fourth in the conference and among the top 200 for all Division I players in the nation.
Career-Night for Wright - Sophomore Ashley Wright (Leavenworth, Wash.) turned in the best performance of her career against Montana State on Sept. 23. She posted a career-high 14 kills on a stellar .480 hitting percentage, 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.
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.
VanderWel's Senior Season Off to Blazing Start - After battling with injuries throughout much of her career, senior Amy VanderWel (Woodinville, Wash.) is finally at the top of her game. VanderWel has been the starting libero for EWU in 13 of 16 matches this season. She has tallied double-digit digs in nine of those 16 outings, including a career-high 29 against Idaho State on Sept. 17. She currently ranks eighth among defensive specialists in the Big Sky, averaging 3.18 digs per set.
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 season-high 12.5 total team blocks, to go along with a season-high 84 digs. Eastern was also sharp on the offensive side of the ball, as it recorded the best attack percentage of the season at .292 (66-17-168).
Puckett and Kellerman's Career Performances Power Eagles in Boise State Win - In Eastern's 2011 home opener versus Boise State, juniors Shelby Puckett (Latah, Wash.) and Cora Kellerman (La Conner, Wash.) were nearly unstoppable on both the offensive and defensive ends. Both players recorded career-high kills, while Kellerman also posted a career-high in digs and attack percentage (of contests where she had at least 10 kills). Puckett rattled off 22 kills with only four errors in 45 attempts (.400), while Kellerman posted 21 kills on a career-high .320 clip. Kellerman also picked up 20 digs, which was 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.
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 117-22 home record during that time span, for an impressive winning percentage of 84.2 when playing at Reese Court.
Eagles Honored for Academic Success - 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 Eagle volleyball 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.
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, character and a team-first attitude during the spring season. The award is administered by EWU head strength and conditioning coach, Nate Brookreson. Wright, a 2009 graduate of Cascade High School in Leavenworth, Wash., played in 26 of Eastern's 27 matches during the 2010 campaign, including 15 starts as a redshirt-freshman. She averaged 1.37 kills and 0.52 blocks per set. She also registered three double-doubles throughout the year, all of which came in Big Sky Conference play. At the end of the volleyball season, Wright was selected as the Most Improved Player by her teammates. She is the third recipient of the Emtman Award, which was introduced in Miles Kydd's first season as head coach.