Oct. 25, 2007
Just when you thought the Eastern Washington University volleyball team couldn't make the 2007 season any more dramatic, it pulls out a 30-26, 35-37, 40-38, 22-30, 17-15 win over the visiting Montana Grizzlies in an incredible Big Sky Conference match on Thursday (Oct. 25).
Tonight's match was one of the highest-scoring in NCAA Division I history. Montana came within three points of the Division I record for points scored in a match since the advent of rally scoring in 2001, while Eastern was five away. The mark of 149 is held by Marquette in a 28-30, 33-31, 32-34, 39-37, 17-15 win over Duke on Aug. 30, 2003.
The Eagles (9-13, 8-3 BSC) snapped a trend of losing opening games with a 30-26 victory in tonight's opening stanza. Eastern had dropped nine straight game ones entering today (going 5-4 in that stretch). The clutch run in that game tonight came when EWU scored five straight points to take a late 27-24 lead.
Then the craziness started. A 37-35 Montana win would be the result of EWU's highest-scoring game since a 39-37, 28-30, 30-22, 30-18 win over Boise State on Oct. 21, 2004. Montana rallied from 25-20 and 29-27 deficits to send the stanza into extra points, but Eastern would hold on after seven game points were reached (three for Eastern, four for Montana)
An incredible third game was won by Eastern, 40-38. That was the highest-scoring game in Eagle volleyball history. This time it was Eastern Washington's turn to enact an incredible comeback. Despite being down 10-4 early and 27-22 late, the Eagles rallied for the victory. A 7-1 run for a 29-28 lead earned Eastern its first game point of eight in the stanza (Montana had three).
Game four was the only one tonight not to be close. The Grizzlies pulled away from a 22-18 edge with four straight points on their way to the 30-22 game victory.
Then game five went back to the tone of the evening, tight drama with dramatic comebacks. The Eagles were holding on tenuously when it was 12-9 and 14-12 Montana, but rallied from the brink (and a pair of UM match points) with kills by Mandy Daniels and Hayley Hills. Daniels' putaway was a ball which she just intended for it to go over the net and it ended up landing for a point.
Another Hills kill gave Eastern a 15-14 lead. After Montana tied it, Allison Reinstein put away a ball which had been dug up by Montana and was about to fall on the top of the net before she put it away. A Grizzly attack error put the 290th and final tally of the evening onto the scoreboard to put an end to the three-hour marathon.
The Eagles were led tonight in kills by Hills (24), while Alysha Cook (14) and Chenoa Coviare (14) also had impressive kill totals. Amanda Yausie set the pace in assists with 36, while Ashley Hamilton had 21.
On the defensive side of the ledger, Daniels was the team leader with 26 digs, while Hills completed a double-double performance with 19. Hamilton contributed 12. Chenoa Coviare tied for the second-highest block total by an Eagle in 2007 with seven, while Cook had five.
The victory allowed Eastern Washington to remain right behind Portland State (16-6, 9-2 BSC) in the race for second place and a bye in the quarterfinal round of the Big Sky Championship (Sacramento State is currently first at 8-1 after falling to Northern Colorado 3-2 tonight).
Even though the match was incredibly dramatic, high-quality play was not one of the highlights of the contest.
"This was not a stellar match for us in any way, shape or form," interim head coach Irene Matlock said. "Montana is struggling, but they are trying to make the (six-team Big Sky Conference) Tournament, so that was a great win for us. They out-hit us in kills (98-76) and digs (103-98); we just out-hit them at the end when it really counted."
The Eagles return to action at 7 p.m. on Saturday (Oct. 27) in a home match against Montana State (1-22, 0-11 BSC).