Eagles Unable to Snap Losing Streak in First-Ever Matchup with North Dakota

Eagles aced 11 times in 3-1 loss to Big Sky newcomer

In volleyball, it all starts with the pass. And tonight, that was the most difficult part of the game for the Eastern Washington University volleyball team.

With 11 service aces, Big Sky newcomer North Dakota defeated Eastern, 3-1 (25-20, 18-25, 25-23, 25-16), on Thursday (Oct. 4) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.

Eastern remains winless in the 2012 season at 0-18, while North Dakota improves to 8-9 overall and 4-3 in league play.

“Our passing broke down,” said EWU head coach Lisa Westlake. “When your passing goes, it just puts more pressure on our hitters to perform, and unfortunately, they couldn’t pick it up either. But we were aced 11 times - I think that says it all.”

North Dakota had its strongest offensive performance in the first set with 16 kills on a .220 attack percentage. Eastern out-blocked UND 4-1 in the opening frame, but was held to just .152 hitting, as North Dakota managed to come out on top, 25-20.

In the second set, EWU limited North Dakota to just nine kills on 34 total attempts, while recording 13 kills of its own with just five errors. Midway through the set, the Eagles found themselves trailing 11-7, but a kill by senior Shelby Puckett sparked a 9-0 run for the red and white. Redshirt-freshman Kellen Barfield hammered three kills and a block during the scoring spree, as Eastern rolled to a 25-18 victory.

Following intermission, neither team was able to establish much of an advantage, as evidenced by 15 ties and eight lead changes in the third. Late in that set, the Eagles denied UND with a big block by Puckett and Barfield, which knotted the score at 21. But then back-to-back hitting errors by Eastern and a kill from UND junior Ronni Munkeby gave North Dakota a valuable 24-22 edge. Eastern saved the first set point, but on the ensuing serve, North Dakota put it away with another kill.

Eastern had a negative attack percentage in the fourth set and picked up just nine digs, compared to 15 for UND. North Dakota also had four aces in the final set, and three blocks.

“We are not digging easy balls,” said Westlake. “Our defense has to improve. There are too many balls that we do not take care of properly. We have a game plan, and we are supposed to dig certain places on certain hitters. Tonight, we did not stick to that game plan.”

Schumacher earned the first double-double of her career with a team-leading 13 kills and 10 digs. Kellerman contributed eight kills and had 14 pickups.

While Puckett struggled on offense, with just seven kills on a -.067 attack percentage, she did have a strong night defensively, tallying 11 digs and season-high six blocks.

Sophomore middle hitter Talia Fermantez had seven kills, while her counterpart, Kellen Barfield, registered three kills and a career-high seven blocks.

Eastern will be back at Reese Court tomorrow (Oct. 5) to take on defending Big Sky regular-season and tournament champion Northern Colorado, which is coming off a tough 3-0 loss on Thursday to Portland State.

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