September 17, 2011

Eagles Cruise Past Weber State in Big Sky Opener, 3-0

Eagles record eight service aces en route to first shutout of 2011

No better time to nab the first sweep of the season than in the Big Sky Conference opener. The Eastern Washington University volleyball team topped Weber State in three swift sets (25-16, 25-18, 25-22) on Friday (Sept. 16) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.

With the win, Eastern improves its record to 5-6 overall and 1-0 in conference, while the Wildcats remain winless in the 2011 campaign at 0-11 and 0-1 in league play.

"It's great to start the Big Sky season with a win," said EWU head coach Miles Kydd. "And it certainly helped to open at home. We had a decent pre-conference season, but our goals are centered around Big Sky play. Our path to the NCAA tournament is through the conference."

Eastern tied its best offensive effort of the year, recording a stellar .327 attack percentage with 48 kills and only 16 errors on 98 total attempts. Three different players registered double-digit kills in the match, while five Eagles had at least one service ace.

"It will usually come down to serving and passing," said Kydd. "Tonight, we served really tough and passed well, especially in the first and second sets."

Sophomore Shelby Puckett led the team offensively with 13 kills on a season-best .524 clip. She also tallied six digs, two blocks and one ace.

Eastern's freshmen middle blockers, Amanda Brown and Talia Fermantez, stepped up in a big way, combining for 16 kills with only one error between them. Brown had a career-high 10 kills, while Fermantez turned in a nearly perfect offensive performance of six kills and zero errors on seven total attempts.

"Our freshmen did a great job," praised Kydd. "I think some of players we normally rely on struggled at times tonight, so it was really encouraging to see them [Brown and Fermantez] step up and carry some of the load."

In addition to dominating the offensive end with a 48-29 edge in kills, the Eagles also owned a 44-29 advantage in digs. Senior libero Amy VanderWel paced the Eagle defense with 12 pickups, while senior Cora Kellerman and sophomore setter Lindsay Niemeier added seven apiece.

Niemeier also notched three of Eastern's eight service aces, while her counterpart, junior Laney Brown, had two of her own.

Ironically, the only area in which Eastern trailed the Wildcats was in blocking. Eastern entered the match as the best blocking team in the Big Sky, averaging 2.43 blocks per set. The Eagles had either out-blocked or tied the iropponent in blocks in nine of the 10 previous contests.

"One of the things we pride ourselves on is being the best, or at least one of the best, blocking teams in the conference," said Kydd. "Tonight, Weber State threw some different things at us, and I think we need to be better at making quicker adjustments."

The Eagles will be back in action Saturday (Sept. 17) for another Big Sky battle with the Idaho State Bengals. First serve is at 7 p.m. at Reese Court.

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