Eastern Washington Takes on Vikings

Oct. 7, 2008

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The Eastern Washington University volleyball team will play two of its biggest matches of the season this weekend, as the Eagles play host to Portland State, a team currently in first place in the Big Sky Conference and the defending regular-season champions, before making the short trip to Spokane to play local rivals Gonzaga.

The match with Portland State begins at 7 p.m. on Friday (Oct. 10), while the Eagles will play at Gonzaga at 7 p.m. on Monday (Oct. 13).

Eastern is coming off of a disappointing road trip that saw the team drop 3-0 and 3-1 decisions to Northern Colorado and Northern Arizona, respectively. However, the team is looking to bounce book with solid performances against the Vikings and Bulldogs.

“We have to learn how to close out sets,” head coach Miles Kydd said. “We had a chance to win the first set over NAU, up 27-26, but we have not reacted well to pressure situations after 20.”

Portland State, the hosts of the 2008 Big Sky Championship by virtue of its regular-season title last year, are off to a 11-4 start this year, 5-1 in Big Sky play. The Vikings suffered their first league defeat of the season in their last outing, a 3-1 decision at second-place Northern Colorado.

“I don’t think anybody is going to run away with it (the Big Sky title) this year,” Kydd said.

Gonzaga is off to a 0-2 start to its West Coast Conference campaign, dropping 3-0 and 3-1 decisions at San Diego and San Francisco, respectively, over the weekend, while the Bulldogs are 6-11 overall. Gonzaga will play host to Saint Mary’s and Santa Clara in WCC matches this week prior to welcoming the Eagles to the GU campus.

These two matches mark the first of six straight for Eastern Washington in the Cheney-Spokane area. The Eagles will play four consecutive home contests following the GU match.

Hills Getting Some Major Elevation                                                                                                 
Hayley Hills has performed at an incredibly high level this year, as she has posted the three highest kill totals in the Big Sky Conference so far in 2008. On Sept. 27, she had 28 kills in a 3-1 win over Montana, a Big Sky high this season. Hills had 26 against both Weber State on Sept. 18 and Northern Colorado on Saturday (Oct. 4).

She earned Big Sky Player of the Week accolades on Sept. 29 after she had 5.86 kills and 3.14 digs per set against Montana State and Montana that weekend. She also hit at a .431 clip (41-10-72) in the pair of contests.

Her season average of 4.33 kills per set not only leads all Big Sky players, but also ranks her 14th among all NCAA Division I players.

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 that week.

Hills then moved her impressive streak of being named to All-Tournament teams to five, dating to 2007, after earning accolades at the Idaho Volleyball Classic on Sept. 6.

Her career average of 3.78 kills per set currently places her second in Eagle history in that category. Incredibly she has increased her career average from 3.59 entering the season after the NCAA lowered the point totals needed to win a set from 30 to 25 prior to the commencement of the 2008 campaign.

Daniels Hits 1,000-Dig 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 1,141). That match-total of 30 is the sixth-highest by any Big Sky Conference player in 2008 and was the most by an Eagle since she had 33 against Sacramento State on Nov. 16, 2007.

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

She then surpassed even that dig total when she had 31 in EWU’s 3-1 win over Montana on Saturday (Sept. 27). That sum is tied for the fourth-most by a Big Sky player this year.

Daniels is on pace to set the school record for career digs per set, as her current average of 4.31 is ahead of Verdoljak’s 3.95 (2002-04). It is especially incredible that she has actually increased her digs per set average after the NCAA lowered the point totals needed to win a set from 30 to 25 prior to the 2008 season (entering 2008, her career average was 4.32).

She is also nearing the top-five list for total digs, as her sum of 1,141 trails the fifth spot by just 24.

Ashley Assists Anyone and Everyone           
Setter Ashley Hamilton has had an impressive season setting up Eastern hitters for kills. So far in 2008, she is averaging 9.50 assists per set, the fourth-highest average among Big Sky Conference players and the average is good enough to rank her 117th among all NCAA Division I players.

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 contributed 19 digs, seven kills, six blocks and three service aces.

On Sept. 18, she had 59 assists, which is the second-highest total by any Big Sky Conference player so far in 2008 (trails just Montana’s Taryn Wright, who had 61 against Northern Arizona on Saturday, Sept. 20).

Then, versus Montana State and Montana on Sept. 25 and 27, respectively, she not only contributed 11.14 assists per set, but she was also an intimidating attacking force herself, as she hit at a .480 clip (14-2-25).

“Her attack is a big deal for us, because it really messes with the other team,” head coach Miles Kydd said. “They don’t know what to do. With her hitting at a 50 percent clip, if you don’t dedicate a blocker to her, you’re in trouble, but if you do, she sets another hitter and you’re in trouble again.”

Chenoa Shoots Into Block Rankings              
Chenoa Coviare has been an intimidating presence at the net this year, as evidenced by her 0.91 blocks per set, an average that ranks her seventh in the Big Sky Conference and 223rd among NCAA Division I players.

Over the past four matches, she has contributed an impressive 1.38 blocks per set (18 blocks in 13 sets).

“(Montana’s) Jamie Thibeault is one of the best middles in the conference, and Chenoa was swing-for-swing with her,” head coach Miles Kydd said. “She played an outstanding match on Saturday (Sept. 27), and if she continues to play at that high level, we’ll be fine.”

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 attain All-Tournament accolades.

Kydd Takes over Reigns                                    
The 2008 Eastern Washington Eagles are being 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, as well as Wes Walker, who has worked with the Eagles the past couple years as a volunteer assistant coach.

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.

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