Aug. 26, 2008
The Eastern Washington University volleyball team will start its 2008 season with three matches this weekend at the Hilton Classic in Fort Collins, Colo.
First up will be Denver, a squad that went 22-12, 15-3 in Sun Belt Conference action. That contest will take place at 4 p.m. Pacific Time on Friday (Aug. 29). The next morning, the Eagles face Southeastern Conference-member Arkansas at 9. The Razorbacks were 12-19 last year.
Eastern Washington wraps up its weekend with a match-up versus No. 17 Colorado State at 6:30 that evening. The Rams are coming off a 23-8 season and a first-place 13-3 mark in the Mountain West Conference. Colorado State defeated Illinois State 3-0 in an NCAA First Round contest last year before falling to Michigan by the same score in the Second Round.
“This is going to be a tough tournament,” head coach Miles Kydd said. “But these are the teams we want to match up against, aspire to be, so we need to find out what we need to do to play at that level. These (pre-conference) matches will prepare us for (Big Sky) Conference and postseason play.”
Never before has Eastern faced either Denver or Arkansas. The Eagles have played Colorado State twice with the Rams coming out on top both times (the last meeting came on Sept. 15, 1995).
The Eagles are coming off another outstanding season, as Eastern went 12-4 in Big Sky Conference play to finish third, its 12th-straight top-three league finish, and advanced to the league semifinals for the 11th consecutive campaign. Eastern Washington also went a perfect 7-0 in five-set matches and rallied from a sets deficit on nine separate occasions. The last came in a comeback 3-2 win over Northern Arizona in the Big Sky quarterfinals.
The team returns all six starters plus the libero from that squad (and 10 of 12 letterwinners). This year’s squad has a mix of experience and youth, as it will be comprised of two seniors, four juniors, four sophomores and six freshmen.
New NCAA Rules for 2008
The term “game” has been changed to “set.” In other words, a team needs to win three sets to claim a match. Volleyball throughout the world has referred to “sets” rather than “games” for the past several years.
The number of points required to win sets 1-4 is now 25. From 2001-07, it was 30. Rally scoring remains in effect; prior to 2001, the serving team was the only one allowed to tally a point on any single rally. The fifth set will also remain rally scoring, played to 15 points. All sets must still be won by at least two points.
This rule change was enacted to increase focus and excitement levels, from both players and spectators, throughout each set. International and Olympic volleyball has used 25-point sets since moving to the rally-scoring system in 1999.
As a result, the number of substitutions allowed for each team per set has been decreased from 15 to 12.
Kydd Takes over Reigns
The 2008 Eastern Washington Eagles will be led by first-year head coach Miles Kydd.
Kydd, however, is no stranger to the program, as he spent the past four years as the team’s assistant coach.
He also brings to the position several years of experience at the international level as well as at the collegiate level from his native Canada.
Joining him on the coaching staff is Lisa Westlake, a highly-respected mind in the sport of volleyball, and Wes Walker, who has worked with the Eagles the past couple years as a volunteer assistant coach.
Taking a Look at the Setters
The two players split setting duties last year with Yausie playing in 89 sets (averaging 8.76 assists per set) and Hamilton taking part in 70 stanzas (7.77 assists per set).
Both were even on pace to be ranked in the top 10 in the Big Sky, but Hamilton had not played the required 75 percent of Eastern’s sets in order to be listed (she saw action in 63 percent of the stanzas, 70 of 112).
Brown enters Eastern with impressive high school accolades, as the Waterville (Wash.) High School graduate was named to the Associated Press 2B All-State Second Team and was named Co-Most Valuable Player of the North Central League.
Taking a Look at the Outside Hitters
The outside hitter position is the deepest on the squad, as four talented players return from last year and two gifted newcomers will be added to the mix, as well.
Hayley Hills was named first team All-Big Sky after recording the third-highest kill average in the league last year, 4.38. Alysha Cook earned a spot on the second team after she had 2.90 kills and 0.73 blocks per stanza last year.
Chelsea Ross posted some incredible numbers, recording double-digit kill totals 10 times before suffering a season-ending knee injury on Oct. 25.
Jacque Brown played extremely well when called on to replace Ross on the court, including hitting .400 (11-1-25) in a four-set win over Montana State.
Freshman Brielle Menegazzi arrives in Cheney with some impressive high school credentials, earning Montana A All-State accolades and helping lead her squad to a state title as a junior.
Freshman Cora Kellerman will also bring her skill set to the outside hitter position. She earned All-State accolades and helped her high school team to successive state titles.
Taking a Look at the Middle Blockers
The middle blocking position will be comprised of a pair of experienced Eagles and a newcomer.
Both Chenoa Coviare and Allison Reinstein were stabilizing forces in the middle last year. Coviare had some simply spectacular matches in 2007, including hitting at a spectacular .750 clip (17-2-20) in a 3-2 win over Colgate. She also had 1.04 blocks per set. Reinstein also played at a high level in 2007, as her 0.91 blocks per set average ranked highly in the NCAA Division I ranks.
Freshman Emily Bekkering helped lead her high school squad to a Saskatchewan provincial championship and figures to contribute significantly to the middle blocking position.
Taking a Look at the Defensive Specialists
Returning Big Sky Libero of the Year Mandy Daniels will serve as a steadying force in the back row, as she enters the 2008 campaign with a career average of 4.32 digs per set, on pace to easily set a school record. She smashed the school mark for digs per set in a season last year with 4.81 per stanza.
Mortensen played well in back all year, as she contributed double-digit dig sums on six occasions. She set her personal high of 16 in a road contest against eventual Big Sky champion Sacramento State on Oct. 13.
Petroni served as starting libero for a 4A state champion Mead High School squad the past two years. The most recent title was the school’s fifth in a row.
VanderWel is also coming off an outstanding high school career, which she wrapped up with KingCo 4A Conference first team honors and a state tournament appearance.
Daniels Rewrites Record Book
Senior libero Mandy Daniels set records last season and has eyes set on more this season.
She finished 2007 with 4.81 digs per set, which smashed the previous record of 4.62, then held by Andrea Verdoljak (2005). The year before, 2006, Daniels had 4.40 digs per set, good for fifth on that list.
Daniels is on pace to set the school record for career digs per set, as her current average entering 2008 of 4.32 is significantly ahead of Verdoljak’s 3.95 (2002-04).
Also, Daniels had 539 total digs in 2007, just one shy of that school record of 540, held by Verdoljak (2005).
For her efforts last year, she earned Big Sky Conference Libero of the Year accolades.
Hills Getting Some Major Elevation
Junior outside hitter Hayley Hills is coming off an outstanding year, as she placed herself fourth in the Eagle record book for both kills per set (4.38) and total kills (491). Also, her career kills per set average of 3.59 currently places her second in that category (Kim Exner, 1995-98, currently holds that record at 4.43).
In 2007, Hills was rewarded for her performances with an appointment to the All-Big Sky Conference first team.
Cooking up some Kills
Sophomore outside hitter Alysha Cook put together some outstanding performances in 2007 and, for her efforts, was named to the All-Big Sky Conference second team.
She played well for Eastern Washington all season, as her 2.90 kills per set average was the second-highest on the team. She was also third on the squad in blocks per set with 0.73.
One of Cook’s best performances came against eventual Big Sky champion Sacramento State, when she hit .409 (10-1-22) in the three-set contest played on Oct. 13.
Where Will the Team Start the 2009 Season?
With its season-opening contest with Denver on Aug. 29, the Eastern Washington Eagles will have now opened the past 10 seasons (1999-2008) in 10 different districts/states (in chronological order from 1999: District of Columbia, Michigan, Maine, Florida, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Kansas, Arizona and Colorado).
Eagles Place Fifth in Preseason Poll
The Eastern Washington Eagles were selected fourth in the Big Sky Conference’s preseason poll. Portland State placed first and was followed, in order, by Sacramento State, Weber State, EWU, Northern Colorado, Montana, Northern Arizona, Idaho State and Montana State.