Eagles Suffer Heartbreaking 3-2 Setback to Northern Arizona

Five Eagles post double-digit kills and four others have double-digit digs, but the statistical advantage isn't enough to power Eastern past visiting Lumberjacks

The Eastern Washington University volleyball team is certainly used to playing five-set matches, but the team is not accustomed to losing them. On Friday (Oct. 1) at Reese Court, the Eagles gave up a two-set lead to allow the Lumberjacks of Northern Arizona to escape Cheney with a gut-wrenching 3-2 victory (24-26, 18-25, 25-19, 25-22, 15-12).

"I wish I could explain what happened, but I'm at a loss," said EWU head coach Miles Kydd. "We did a lot of things right. We eliminated their best hitter, we had more kills and digs, but for whatever reason, we couldn't get it done. It's a bit of a mind boggler."

With the loss, Eastern falls to 8-8 on the season and 4-2 in Big Sky action, while the Lumberjacks improved to 13-1 overall and 4-1 in league play. Eastern has now played seven five-set matches in the 2011 campaign, and only dropped two of them.

Eastern came out of the gates on Friday with all the momentum, recording 22 kills and only five errors on 42 attempts in the first set. Behind the stellar .405 attack percentage and a 20-14 advantage in digs, the Eagles won the opening frame 26-24. In the second set, Eastern held Northern Arizona to a dismal .000 clip, as the Lumberjacks recorded only five kills on 37 total attempts.

But something happened to that fire following the intermission, and the Lumberjacks managed to slowly take control of the match.

"In the locker room, we talked about coming out in the third set with a lot of energy and treating it like it was a fifth set," added Kydd. "But that didn't happen. There was no sense of urgency. We would make a few errors, fight back for one or two, but then give up another little run. I think giving up points in bunches like that started to get to us emotionally."

The Eagles actually finished the match with slightly more kills (64-54), digs (86-83) and blocks (12.5-9), but Northern Arizona just seemed to find the way to pull through in clutch.

Five different Eagles registered double-digit kills, including freshmen middle blockers Amanda Brown and Talia Fermantez, who both finished with 11. Fermantez also contributed a team-high six blocks, while Brown added five.

Juniors Cora Kellerman and Shelby Puckett both had double-doubles, as Kellerman tallied 10 kills and 15 digs, and Puckett a team-high 17 kills and 16 pickups.

Sophomore setter Lindsey Niemeier extended her double-double streak to five-consecutive games, as she finished with 31 assists and 16 digs. Niemeier is leading the conference in double-doubles with 10 on the year.

Senior libero Lindsey Petroni picked up 18 digs and had five assists from her position in the back row, while sophomore defensive specialist Tyler Calles provided a valuable spark for the Eagles off the bench with four rally-saving digs and one ace.

Eastern will host Idaho this Wednesday (Oct. 5) in a non-conference match, before hitting the road to take on Sacramento State on Saturday (Oct. 8).

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