September 16, 2008

Big Sky Play Starts

Sept. 16, 2008

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After taking on some of the top teams the country has to offer over the past three weeks, the Eastern Washington University volleyball team will now step into Big Sky Conference play. The Eagles open their league season with road contests against Weber State and Idaho State on Thursday (Sept. 18) and Saturday (Sept. 20), respectively. Both matches start at 6 p.m. Pacific Time.

The Eagles faced a very challenging first three weeks of their season and came out with some notable wins and some impressive performances in losses. Among those defeated by Eastern Washington included Arkansas in a three-set sweep and both Notre Dame and Washington State in four. Also, the Eagles had a quality showing in a five-set loss on the road to Colorado State, currently ranked 15th nationally.

This week marks what is sure to be a competitive Big Sky campaign. Four teams will enter league play with at least a .700 winning percentage; Northern Arizona currently leads the way, having gone 8-1 over the initial three weeks of the 2008 season. Eastern's opponent on Saturday, Weber State, is 8-3 and just wrapped up a tournament title at the Gonzaga Invitational. Meanwhile, Idaho State is looking to bounce back from a 2-8 start to its campaign with the fresh start that the commencement of league play presents.

The Eagles will have a quick turnaround, having arrived back from Eugene, Ore., and the Oregon Classic late Saturday night (Sept. 13) and departing for its Weber State-Idaho State road trip on Wednesday (Sept. 17).

"It's a quick turnaround," head coach Miles Kydd said. "We have two days to work on what we need to work on and then leave again."

Eastern Washington opening on the road to start Big Sky play actually works out for the best, however, as students will not have arrived on campus with the first date of fall quarter being Sept. 24, the day before EWU plays its home opener against Montana State the following night. And Eastern will play 7-of-10 contests at home starting with that MSU contest.

Three Earn All-Tournament Honors                
A trio of Eagles has earned All-Tournament honors in 2008.

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 both 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. Compiling 30 in Eastern's 3-2 loss to No. 17 Colorado State on Aug. 30 pushed her career total to 1,017. (she now has 1,046)

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

Daniels is on pace to set the school record for career digs per set, as her current average of 4.30 is significantly ahead of Verdoljak's 3.95 (2002-04). She is also nearing the top-five list for total digs, as her sum of 1,046 trails the fifth spot by just 119.

Daniels had an incredible 2007 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).

For her efforts last year, she earned Big Sky Conference Libero of the Year accolades.

Hills Getting Some Major Elevation                      
The first weekend of the season, junior outside hitter Hayley 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 Sept. 6.

Her career total of 3.59 kills per set currently places her second in Eagle history in that category. Her season average of 3.62 per stanza currently ranks second in the Big Sky Conference and 82nd among all NCAA Division I players.

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) in 2007. at 4.43).

In 2007, Hills was rewarded for her performances with an appointment to the All-Big Sky Conference first team.

Ashley Assists Anyone and Everyone           
Setter Ashley Hamilton has had an impressive season so far setting up Eastern hitters for kills. So far in 2008, she is averaging 9.44 assists per set, the third-highest average among Big Sky Conference players and good enough to rank her 114th among the NCAA Division I ranks.

She also earned All-Idaho Volleyball Classic honors the second week of the season. 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).

Chenoa Shuts Down Opposition                                 
Sophomore middle blocker Chenoa Coviare has been a dominating force at the net so far in 2008, as evidenced by her 0.81 blocks per set. That average is the eighth-best in the Big Sky Conference and 300th in the NCAA Division I ranks.

Twice this year, Coviare has tallied five blocks in a contest (versus Notre Dame and Idaho on Sept. 5 and 6, respectively) and once she had four putbacks.

Last year, Coviare had some simply amazing performances. One of those came on Aug. 31 against Colgate, when she hit .750 (17-2-20), an extraordinary hitting percentage for a five-set match. For the season, she had 1.04 blocks per stanza.

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 2009?                   
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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