Eagles Play Idaho at Home and Sac State on the Road in Week Ahead

After tough weekend at Reese Court, Eastern looking to get back on track before it hits the road for another Big Sky battle at Sac State


After a perfect 4-0 start to the Big Sky Conference season, the Eastern Washington University volleyball team took a step back last weekend with a pair of losses at home to league-leaders Northern Colorado and Northern Arizona.

This week, Eastern will look to right the ship, starting with a non-conference duel against Idaho on Wednesday (Oct. 5) at Reese Court.

Although it has proved sometimes difficult to focus on non-league opponents when in the heart of a conference schedule, this match may have come at the best time possible for EWU. Eastern can use the mid-week matchup to work out any kinks before it dives back into Big Sky action on Saturday (Oct. 8) at Sacramento State.  

Idaho comes to Cheney with a 7-9 overall record, but two of those losses came against Top-25 programs. The Vandals and Eagles have played two of the same opponents already this year in Cal State Fullerton and Montana. Idaho beat both teams in straight sets. The Eagles lost to Fullerton, 3-0, and beat Montana in five.

Wednesday's match at Reese Court will be the 79th meeting in history between EWU and UI, which used to be a member of the Big Sky Conference until 1996 when it joined the WAC. Idaho holds a 42-29 advantage in the all-time series, which includes a 3-1 victory in the most recent meeting in 2010.

The Vandals topped EWU in Moscow 25-18, 25-17, 16-25, 25-11. Idaho welcomed back five of its six starters from that 2010 squad, as well as its primary libero.

Eastern's second opponent on the week, Sacramento State, has a very similar story to Idaho. The Hornets currently own an 8-9 overall record and are ranked No. 3 in the conference at 3-1. Sac State welcomed back all six starters and its libero from last year's squad.

Sac State is enters the weekend on a hot streak, having won three-straight matches against Northern Colorado, Idaho State and Weber State. Not only are the Hornets the only Big Sky team to beat league-leading UNC this year, but they did it in three swift sets (25-17, 25-17, 25-16). The only blemish on Sac State's conference record is a narrow 3-2 loss to the other top team in the Big Sky, Northern Arizona.

Like Eastern, the Hornets present a balanced offense with two setters and four serious offensive threats. Leading the group of hitters is a pair of outsides in Eryn Kirby and Janelle Currey, who average 2.94 and 2.34 kills per set, respectively. The Hornets also boast the No. 1 defensive specialist in the Big Sky in Breanne Menees, who averages 5.24 digs per set.

The Eagles and Hornets split the 2010 series, with each team winning on its home court. In Sacramento, the Hornets handled Eastern in four sets (25-14, 25-27, 25-17, 25-22), but in the rematch in Cheney, Eastern swept Sac State in convincing fashion. The set scores were 25-17, 25-14, 25-17.

Sac State, which has won 11 Big Sky Championships in the last 15 years, owns a 27-13 advantage over Eastern in the all-time series.  

Eagle Volleyball News & Notes

Niemeier Doubles-Up - Sophomore setter Lindsay Niemeier (Spokane, Wash.) has registered a team and conference-leading 10 double-doubles this season. She has posted a double-double of assists and digs in the last five-consecutive outings, which is the longest current streak in the Big Sky Conference. She had a season-high 42 assists against Southern Utah on Sept. 10, and has twice set a season-high of 16 digs against Montana State (Sept. 23) and Northern Arizona (Oc. 1).

Petroni has 30 or More x Four - Senior libero Lindsey Petroni (Spokane, Wash.) tallied 33 digs in Eastern's 3-2 win at Montana. Those 33 pickups marked the best defensive effort of any player thus far 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 now one of three players in EWU history to have at least four 30+ dig performances in her career.

Freshmen Firepower - 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 16 matches of the 2011 season, averaging 1.43 kills and a team-leading 1.13 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 the last five-consecutive outings. Her counterpart on the court, Talia Fermantez (Honolulu, Hawaii), contributes 1.53 kills per set and 0.79 blocks. Fermantez has really come on strong since the start of conference, averaging 1.81 kills and 0.85 blocks per set. She has had two double-digit kill outings, including a career-high a 13 kills on a .310 hitting percentage against Montana on Sept. 24. The Eagles have also started a freshman on the outside in every match thus far in the season. Kelsey Julian (Kennewick, Wash.) averages 0.89 kills per set and 0.65 blocks. She posted a season-high seven kills and six blocks against UNLV on Sept. 10.

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.

Stellar Statistics - Eastern Washington ranks among the top three Big Sky teams in four of seven statistical categories, but in conference-matches only, the Eags are among the top three in all seven. After three weeks of Big Sky play, Eastern is first in assists (1.59/set), second in kills (13.22/set) and assists (12.41/set) and third in digs (17.22/set), blocks (2.31/set), hitting percentage (.203) and opponent hitting percentage (.166).

Eagles Excel at the Net - In 13 of its first 16 matches of the 2011 season, Eastern has out-blocked or had the exact same number of blocks as its opponent. The Eagles have tallied double-digit blocks in nine contests, and have only once had less than eight total team blocks in a match.  EWU is currently the No. 2 blocking team in the Big Sky, averaging 2.42 blocks per set, and ranks in the top 60 nationally.

Nine in Row for Puckett - Junior Shelby Puckett (Latah, Wash.) has posted double-digit kills in the last nine-consecutive matches - the longest current hitting streak in the Big Sky. She registered a season and career-high 22 against Boise State on Aug. 31. On the season, Puckett's 3.07 kills per set average ranks sixth in the conference and among the top 250 in the nation. Puckett averages 3.75 points per set, which ranks fourth in the conference and 185 among all Division I players.

Wright Has Career-Night in Bozeman - Sophomore Ashley Wright (Leavenworth, Wash.) turned in the best performance of her career against the Bobcats of MSU on Sept. 23. She posted a career-high 14 kills on a stellar .480 hitting percentage, and had four service aces to lead Eastern to a thrilling five-set victory. Wright also had six digs and 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.

Big Sky's Leading Blocker Out with Injury - Through the first three weeks of the season, senior Chenoa Rossi-Childress (Las Vegas, Nev.) was the No. 1 blocker in the Big Sky, averaging 1.38 blocks per set. She had tallied 36 blocks in Eastern's first seven matches of 2011, including a season-high eight against Santa Clara on Aug. 27. Unfortunately, Rossi-Childress was sidelined last week due to a nagging knee injury. She will also miss this week's conference openers against Weber State and Idaho State, with her status to be reevaluated after the weekend.

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.

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