Eastern overpowered in first two matches of Iowa State Challenge
The Eastern Washington University volleyball team showed improvement with each set played on Friday (Sept. 7) at the Iowa State Challenge, but competition was stiff in Ames, Iowa, as both No. 18 Iowa State and Syracuse swept the Eagles, 3-0. Against the Cyclones, Eastern fell 25-10, 25-15, 25-15, while set scores against the Orange were 25-17, 25-21, 25-19. With the losses, EWU falls to 0-10 on the season.
The nationally-ranked Cyclones, who advanced to the Sweet 16 in last year’s NCAA Championship, recorded 37 kills on a .370 clip against EWU. For the first time this season, Eastern was held to a negative hitting percentage, as it managed just 22 kills with 25 errors on 86 attempts.
Eastern’s second match of the day against Syracuse was more competitive. After spending the first six weeks of the season sidelined with a broken toe, senior setter Laney Brown made her first start for EWU. She tallied 21 assists, five digs and two kills against the Orange.
In the first set, Eastern dug an early hole, and couldn’t find quite enough to get back in it. The Eagles did go on a 6-1 one late in the set to cut the deficit to five at 22-17, but the Orange put it away with two kills and an ace on the final three plays.
In the second and third sets, EWU put Syracuse to the test. There were 14 ties and five lead changes in the two sets combined. Eastern recorded a .231 attack percentage in the second set and .233 in the third.
Freshman middle blocker Allison Doerpinghaus had back-to-back kills late in the second set that pulled the Eagles within two at 20-18, and forced Syracuse to call a timeout. Coming out of that break, senior Cora Kellerman rattled off a kill, but the Orange answered with back-to-back points scored off the hand of outside hitter Silvi Uattara. Eastern had two more kills before it was over, but SU managed to take it, 25-21.
In the final stanza, EWU found itself in a tough position after falling behind 21-13. But the Eagles showed some fight, and a kill by junior Ashley Wright, who had returned to her normal position on the outside after setting for the Eags for the first three weeks of the season, sparked a 6-2 run for the red and white. Now down by only four points at 23-19, Syracuse head coach Leonid Yelin called a timeout in an attempt to thwart the Eagle momentum. The interruption paid off for SU, as the Orange had two immediate kills coming out of the break to win the set and match.
Sophomore Kelsey Julian led the Eagles against SU with a career-high nine kills and zero errors for a .429 attack percentage. She also contributed five digs.
Kellerman finished with eight kills and five digs, while fellow senior Shelby Puckett chipped in six kills, five digs and a team-high three blocks.
Uattara led Syracuse with 19 kills, while sophomore Nicolette Serratore added 13 kills on a .524 clip.
Eastern will play its final non-conference match on Saturday (Sept. 8) at 2 p.m. against Iowa. The Eagles open Big Sky Conference play next Thursday (Sept. 13) at Sacramento State.