Eagles start out strong in home debut, but can't hold on against Vikings
Playing in front of a rowdy home crowd for the first time this season, the Eastern Washington University volleyball team couldn't find quite enough to get past the Vikings of Portland State, as the Eagles fell to the Big Sky Conference foe, 3-0 (27-25, 25-17, 25-17) on Monday (Sept. 17) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
With the loss, Eastern drops to 0-13 in the 2012 season and 0-2 in Big Sky Conference action, while the Vikings improve to 6-7 overall and 2-0 in league play. Portland State has proved to be one of the toughest opponents for EWU in recent years, winning the last eight contests in a row.
In the first set on Monday, it looked as though home court advantage would pay off for the Eagles, as the home team went on a 6-0 run late in the set to secure a 23-20 lead. Seniors Cora Kellerman and Shelby Puckett each had two kills during the scoring spree, while Kellerman also added a block.
But following a timeout called by Portland State head coach Michael Seemann, the Vikings scored four-consecutive points to earn the first set point of the night at 24-23. Eastern managed to save that one on a stuff block by Puckett and redshirt-freshman Kellen Barfield, and then EWU scored again for their own set-point at 25-24. Unfortunately, an Eagle unforced error followed by back-to-back kills from Portland State allowed the Viks to eek out the win 26-24.
Eastern actually recorded one more kill than Portland State in the first set, and held the Vikings to a .094 hitting percentage, but in the pivotal moments, the visiting team was able to come up with the big plays.
"I think we got tight, and we started playing not to lose," said EWU head coach Lisa Westlake. "We just weren't as aggressive as Portland State on those last few points.
"We were fighting, competing and doing things that we had practiced," added Westlake. "We were looking disciplined, but to get over the hump, we need to do all those things longer. We need to do it past the 24th point."
In the second set, the Eagles struggled to find an offensive rhythm, recording a -.059 attack percentage. That lack of offense also affected Eastern's defensive flow. After getting four blocks in the opening frame, EWU did not record another one the rest of the night, while the Vikings also out-dug the Eagles, 27-18, in the final two sets.
Portland State had 25 kills and only nine errors in the second and third sets for a combined .281 efficiency.
Despite the loss, sophomore Talia Fermantez had one of her best offensive performances of the year, with 13 kills and just three errors on 20 total attempts. Fellow middle hitter Kellen Barfield had four kills and four blocks.
Kellerman had seven kills, seven digs and two blocks, while senior setter Laney Brown was a couple digs shy of a double-double, finishing with 29 assists and eight pickups.
Eastern will head back out on the road for its next Big Sky contests, starting with Montana State (7-3, 1-1) on Thursday (Sept. 20) in Bozeman, Mont. Eastern will then face Montana (2-9, 0-2) on Saturday (Sept. 22) in Missoula.