Offense struggles in duel with UC Riverside
That first win continues to elude the Eastern Washington University volleyball team.
Still without a trained setter to run the offense, the Eagles lost their fifth-straight match on Friday (Aug. 31) at the Gonzaga Invitational in Spokane, Wash. Eastern fell to UC Riverside, 3-0, with set scores of 25-19, 25-16, 25-22.
Eastern out-blocked its opponent for the third time this season, but the discrepancy in kills was too much for the Eags to overcome. UCR held a 41-26 advantage in kills, with nearly double the assists.
“Our outside hitters are doing a great job of continuing plays and keeping the ball in,” said interim head coach Lisa Westlake, after her first official match at the helm of the program. “We are not making very many errors, but we’re not putting any balls away. We talked with Ashley [Wright] about getting our hitters in a position where they can actually be a threat, so that's just something we have to continue to work on.”
Wright, listed as a six-foot outside hitter, stepped in to set for the Eagles after both its veteran setters were sidelined with injuries.
“We are just taking it one match at a time,” said Westlake. “We will figure out our offense and when we do, everything will seem much simpler.”
An early run by UC Riverside in the first set gave the Highlanders a five-point lead, and Eastern found itself chasing the rest of the way. There was a brief shift in momentum when EWU won an exciting rally of 14 plays back and forth, but the Eagles only managed to record eight total kills in the set, compared to 13 for UCR. The Highlanders also had two service aces and a 12-8 advantage in digs.
After hitting a .107 clip in the opening frame, Eastern improved its attack percentage dramatically in the second to .241. But UC Riverside also put forth an improved offense, as the Highlanders tallied 14 kills with just two errors on 29 attempts (.414).
Eastern scored the first four points of the third set and built that lead to 8-3 after a pair of blocks and a kill by sophomore Talia Fermantez. But the Highlanders took 10 of the next 13 points to earn a slight 13-11 advantage. The Eagles never managed to regain the lead, but did show some fight with a late surge. Trailing 23-19, EWU scored three unanswered points to pull within one at 23-22. The Highlanders came up with back-to-back kills though to end the set and match.
Sophomore Kayla Randles led the Eagles with eight kills. Senior Cora Kellerman added six kills, and had a team-high 12 digs. Fermantez finished with seven kills on a .375 attack percentage and five blocks.
Wright posted 20 assists, six digs and three blocks, while freshman libero Ryann Ensrud had eight pickups.
The Eagles will play South Dakota State on Saturday (Sept. 1) at 11 a.m., followed by the tournament finale against host-Gonzaga at 6 p.m.