Eastern upholds 17-year home winning streak against Montana, and now looks for 11th-straight against Montana State
It was not a fluke. The Eastern Washington University volleyball team appears to be back on track. After a 0-22 start to the 2012 campaign, the Eagles have celebrated back-to-back wins at Reese Court, and both were 3-0 sweeps.
After earning its first victory of the season on Monday (Oct. 22) against Sacramento State, Eastern doubled its season wins with a 3-0 rout of Montana on Thursday (Oct. 25) in Cheney, Wash. Eastern also upheld a 17-year home winning streak against the Grizzlies, who have not escaped Cheney with a W since Oct. 14, 1995.
“It’s great to get two in a row,” said EWU head coach Lisa Westlake. “When we won Monday, there were questions about whether it was just a lucky day, or if we had really reached a new plateau. Winning two in a row - and winning both of them in three - makes the team believe we have truly elevated our game.”
“Monday night on the floor, it was like we had won the NCAA Championship,” added Westlake. “The girls are still excited tonight, but they’re already talking about Saturday’s match against Montana State. We have a sense that we can do it now. We expect to win.”
Eastern takes on the Bobcats Saturday (Oct. 27) at 7 p.m. in its third-straight home match. Like with the Grizzlies, EWU has enjoyed recent success against MSU when playing in Cheney. Eastern has won 10 in a row against Montana State, and only dropped four of 34 total sets played at Reese Court since 2000.
The Eagles recorded a season-high .292 attack percentage on Thursday, while holding Montana to just .109 hitting - the worst offensive output by an EWU opponent this season. Eastern had 11 team blocks for the second-straight match, while three different players recorded double-digit digs.
Eastern did not however dominate the match right away. There were nine ties and two lead changes in the opening set before EWU was able to take control. With the score knotted at 15, senior setter Laney Brown delivered a perfectly-timed, tricky dump that sparked a 5-0 run for the Eagles. Facing a 20-15 deficit, Montana was forced to call a timeout, but coming out of the break, Brown served up an ace to make it 21-15. The Grizzlies would score just one more point before Eastern sealed it, 25-16.
The Eagles never trailed in the second set, posting 19 kills with just four errors on 37 attempts. Sophomore middle blocker Talia Fermantez was nearly flawless in the set, with six kills and no errors on seven swings. Freshman Allie Schumacher added five kills, while seniors Cora Kellerman and Shelby Puckett chipped in three a piece.
Eastern fell behind 3-0 in the third set, but another kill by Fermantez off a quick set from Brown led to a five-point scoring spree for EWU. The red and white extended their lead to 18-10, before Montana was able to momentarily stop the bleeding. The Grizzlies scored five of the next six points pull within four at 19-15, but that was the closest they came, as EWU rolled to a 25-17 victory.
“I’ve told this team since the beginning that it is not their talent causing the problems - it was their state of mind,” said Westlake. “We are definitely stronger because of everything we have gone through this season, but all that was missing before was the belief in ourselves. We finally have some confidence and chemistry, and are playing as a cohesive unit.”
Three different Eagles recorded double-digit kills in the match, led by Fermantez with 12. The sophomore from Honolulu, Hawaii had missed Eastern’s previous outing against Sac State because of a sprained ankle, but she wasted no time in re-establishing herself as one of the biggest threats on the court.
Kellerman finished with 11 kills and eight digs, while Schumacher posted her second double-double of the season with 10 kills and a career-high 12 pickups. The freshman out of Puyallup, Wash., also contributed two of Eastern’s season-high six aces.
Brown also had two aces, to go along with 36 assists, five digs and two kills.
Junior libero Celeste Crosby tallied a team-high 15 digs, while Puckett added 10.