Eagles Pull Out Five-Set Thriller in Big Sky Opener
Sept. 18, 2008
The Eastern Washington University volleyball team had a dog fight on its hands in its opening match of the Big Sky Conference schedule, but the Eagles proved tough enough and defeated Weber State 25-22, 28-26, 18-25, 18-25, 15-12, in a barnburner in Ogden, Utah, on Thursday evening (Sept. 18).
The win was an impressive one to get, especially on the road, as Weber State had started its 2008 season with a 8-3 mark and was coming off of a championship at the Gonzaga Invitational over the weekend.
Hayley Hills had 26 kills on the evening, which is the highest kill output by any Big Sky player so far and an impressive total, considering the lessening of set lengths from 30 to 25 this year. The previous league high this year was 23, tallied by Northern Colorado’s Kenzie Shreeve against UTEP on Sept. 5. The last time any Eagle hit the 26 mark came nearly a year ago to the date, when Hills had 30 against Idaho State on Sept. 15, 2007.
Setter Ashley Hamilton had 59 assists to help Eastern hit .268 as a team, its second-highest hitting percentage so far this season (the Eagles hit .275 in a dominating three-game sweep of Arkansas on Aug. 30). Her assist sum is the highest by a Big Sky player in 2008 (previously held at 55 by Montana State’s Taylor Faught on Sept. 6 and Northern Arizona's Jana Mays-Robinson on Aug. 29 – both of those performances came against Akron). It also marked the most by any Eagle in nearly three years, since Christina Albers had 64 against Idaho State on Sept. 25, 2005.
Mandy Daniels set the Eagle pace in digs tonight with 21, her third-highest total of 2008. Leading the way for Eastern in blocks was Alysha Cook with four. Cook also had a very impressive hitting night, as she had 17 kills and hit. 371 (17-4-35). Jacque Brown contributed 11 kills to Eastern Washington’s cause, and Chenoa Coviare had eight kills to go with three blocks.
The first two sets tonight were very competitive and dramatic. In the opening stanza, the Eagles (4-6, 1-0 BSC) pulled away from a 22-22 tie to secure the final three points, two of those by kills from Cook. In the second set, Eastern Washington improbably rallied from a 24-22 deficit by staving off two set points on its way to a dramatic 28-26 victory.
Weber State (8-4, 0-1 BSC), however, came out of its locker room following the break between sets 2-3 on a mission and proceeded to tie the match at two sets apiece with consecutive 25-18 victories.
Set five went back to the tone of the first two sets, a close stanza that Eastern would win. The set was tied at 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11 and 12 before the Eagles turned a 12-11 deficit into a 15-12 victory with four straight points. The final quartet of tallies came via a kill from Chenoa Coviare, a Weber State attack error, a Hills putaway and a service ace by Daniels.
“Weber State is a good team, and any time you can win a road match in the Big Sky, that’s a good thing. We definitely want to finish the weekend by doing the same thing in Pocatello,” head coach Miles Kydd said. “Overall, we passed a little better today, but could have done a better job defensively and blocking.”
The Eagles will play their second match of the Big Sky slate at 6:05 p.m. Pacific Time on Saturday (Sept. 18) against Idaho State in Pocatello. The host Bengals are 2-9 and lost their Big Sky opener 25-23, 25-18, 25-22 to Portland State on Thursday.