Eagles Remain Undefeated in Conference with Yet Another Five-Set Victory

Four Eagles post double-digit kills, while Petroni ties career-high 33 digs to power Eastern past Grizzlies in fifth-straight win

Well, they certainly keep it interesting.

For the third match in a row and sixth time this season, the Eastern Washington University volleyball team prevailed in a five-set thriller. The Eagles outlasted Montana, 3-2 (25-22, 29-27, 19-25, 21-25, 15-8) on Saturday (Sept. 24) in Missoula to move into the top spot in the Big Sky Conference standings with an undefeated 4-0 record.

Eastern extended its current winning streak to five-straight, four of which were of the marathon variety.

"We would like to be able to close matches out in three or four," said Kydd. "But our team is accepting of the fact that it might never be that easy, and when it gets to that fifth set, we know how to compete. We don't sit back and allow ourselves to be dictated. We go after it."

Early in the match, it looked like Eastern might pull off the uncharacteristic three-set victory when it earned a two-sets-to-none lead. But Montana would not surrender on its home court, as the Grizzlies battled back to force a dramatic rubber game.

In the fifth set, Montana seized the early lead at 5-3, but then a service error by the Grizzlies sparked a 7-0 run for Eastern Washington. During the surge, junior setter Laney Brown delivered back-to-back aces, while also assisting on a vehement kill by junior Shelby Puckett.

Enjoying a five-point edge at 11-6, Eastern tallied another service ace and freshman middle blocker Talia Fermantez had two big kills to set up match point for the Eags at 14-8. On the final play, Montana's Amy Roberts sent her attack attempt long, solidifying the 3-2 win for EWU.

Eastern's setting duo of Brown and sophomore Lindsay Niemeier had a major impact in the match, as both finished with double-doubles. Brown tallied 25 assists and 13 digs, while Niemeier earned her third-straight double-double with 29 assists and 12 digs.

Niemeier now has eight double-doubles on the season, which leads the Big Sky Conference outright. She is also third on the team in digs, averaging 2.34 per set and third in service aces with 14.

Also providing an invaluable spark for the Eagles were freshmen middle blockers Amanda Brown and Talia Fermantez. Both rookies posted career-high kills on a combined .375 attack percentage. Fermantez had 13 kills and only four errors in 29 attempts, while Brown finished with 12 kills and five errors on 27 swings. Brown also led the team in blocking with five.

Puckett had her seventh-consecutive outing with double-digit kills, as she tallied 17 on a solid .255 hitting percentage. She also contributed nine digs and three blocks.

Although it wasn't her most efficient night offensively at .111, junior captain Cora Kellerman still finished with a double-double of 15 kills and 10 digs.

Senior libero Lindsey Petroni was a machine on the defensive end, as she picked up 33 total digs, tying her career-high mark. The Spokane, Wash., native is now one of three players in EWU history to have at least four 30+ dig performances in her career.

The Eagles will now return home for a challenging weekend against the defending Big Sky regular-season champs, Northern Colorado, and the only other current unbeaten team in league, Northern Arizona. The Bears are 8-5 overall and 2-1 in conference, while the Lumberjacks are holding onto a perfect 12-0 season record and 3-0 mark in Big Sky play.

"It's great to get a sweep on the road and be 4-0, but we have a tough weekend ahead," said Kydd. "In order to prove that we are really something, we will have to do well at our place next weekend. And I know we can."

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