September 9, 2008

Eagles Play #12 Oregon, Undefeated Baylor and UNLV

Sept. 9, 2008

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The Eastern Washington University volleyball team has played with some of the best teams in the country so far in 2008 and now looks ahead to some of its biggest challenges yet. Highlighting this coming weekend will be a road contest versus No. 12 Oregon; the Eagles will also take on an undefeated Baylor squad as well as UNLV as part of the Oregon Classic.

So far in 2008, the Eagles (3-3) have dominated a Southeastern Conference team in Arkansas, taken a top-20 team on the road to five sets before falling and defeated both Notre Dame and Washington State in four sets apiece. This weekend's play will mark Eastern's final contests before the commencement of Big Sky Conference play at Weber State on Sept. 18.

Eastern Washington's first opponent, Baylor, is 7-0 on the season and has a dominating 21-2 games record so far this season. This marks just the third time in school history Baylor has started 7-0. The Bears will try to tie its school record for best start at 8-0 versus the Eagles in a 4:30 p.m. contest on Friday (Sept. 12).

The host Ducks are 5-1 with the only setback coming in a tight 3-2 loss at Illinois (the fifth-set score was 15-13). Oregon's head coach, Jim Moore, brings a 37-3 non-conference record over his four years at the helm of the Ducks into this week's matches. Oregon also plays at UC Irvine on Tuesday (Sept. 9).

UNLV is off to a 2-4 start to its 2008 campaign. The Rebels went 1-2 at both the Arizona State and UNLV Tournaments. Its wins came over a 5-2 Arizona State squad on the road and Cal State Fullerton at home.

"We are going to see some good programs this weekend," head coach Miles Kydd said. "Oregon made the Sweet 16 last year, Baylor is a good program, and UNLV has had some good results. It is going to be another tough weekend, but we will look at the videotape, which will tell us a little bit more. Our goal is to win every single match we play, and that is never going to change no matter who we are playing."

Three Earn All-Tournament Honors                                                              
A trio of Eagles has earned All-Tournament honors the first two weeks of the 2008 season.

At the Idaho Volleyball Classic, played from Sept. 5-6, Ashley Hamilton and Hayley Hills earned mention to the team. The first tournament of the year, the Hilton Classic from Aug. 29-30, saw Mandy Daniels and Hills earn All-Tournament accolades.

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.

Daniels Hits 1,000 Mark
                                   
Senior libero Mandy Daniels hit and surpassed the 1,000-dig mark the first week of the season. After compiling 30 in Eastern's 3-2 loss to No. 17 Colorado State on Aug. 30, she has 1,017 in her career.

After a quality weekend of play, she earned mention to the Hilton Classic's All-Tournament team.

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.

Also, Daniels had 539 total digs in 2007, just one shy of that school record of 540, held by Verdoljak (2005).

Daniels is on pace to set the school record for career digs per set, as her current average of 4.36 is significantly ahead of Verdoljak's 3.95 (2002-04).

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 3.57 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.

The first weekend of the season, Hills earned mention to the All-Tournament team at the Hilton Classic. She averaged 3.36 kills per set in Eastern's three contests and earned her 600th career kill in the tournament's finale against No. 17 Colorado State.

Hills then moved her impressive streak of being named to All-Tournament teams to five after earning accolades at the Idaho Volleyball Classic on Saturday (Sept. 6). She has been honored as a member of the All-Tournament team in each of the last five non-conference tournaments Eastern Washington has participated in (all three in 2007 and the first two of 2008).

Ashley Assists Anyone and Everyone                        
Setter Ashley Hamilton has had an impressive season so far setting up Eastern hitters for kills. So far, she is averaging 10.05 assists per set and just this past weekend, she earned All-Idaho Volleyball Classic honors. For the weekend's three matches, she averaged 11.00 assists per set and also contributed 19 digs, seven kills, six blocks and three service aces.

Last season, Hamilton had 7.77 assists per set, which would have placed her ninth among Big Sky Conference players if she had played in 75 percent of Eastern's sets (she played in 63 percent, 70 of 112).

Cooking up some Kills                          
Sophomore outside hitter Alysha Cook put together some outstanding performances in 2007 and earned mention 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 of 2007 came against eventual Big Sky champion Sacramento State, when she hit .409 (10-1-22) in the three-set contest played on Oct. 13.

Holding the `Backs to Negative Numbers
                   
On Aug. 30, Eastern Washington dominated Arkansas in a 25-23, 25-12, 25-14 win, holding the Razorbacks to a -.085 hitting percentage. That marked the first time EWU has held an opponent to a negative hitting percentage since a 3-0 win over St. Francis (N.Y.) on Sept. 1, 2006.

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.

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.

Looking Back at 2007                       
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.

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