October 8, 2007

Rivalry Week Awaits

Oct. 8, 2007

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The Eastern Washington University volleyball team has no time to think about a pair of losses last week, as the rival Gonzaga Bulldogs come to Cheney for a Tuesday (Oct. 9) match-up and then Eastern travels to take on five-time defending Big Sky Conference champions Sacramento State four days later.

The Eagles had dominated the series with GU up until last year. Entering the 2006 season, Eastern had not only won 10 straight meetings, but had swept each of those contests. But on Sept. 12 of that year in a match played on the Gonzaga campus, the Zags outlasted EWU in a thriller, 30-27, 26-30, 24-30, 30-25, 15-11.

This year, Gonzaga is off to a 12-7 start and on Saturday (Oct. 6) earned its first West Coast Conference win of the season, topping Loyola Marymount in a dramatic contest, 33-31, 33-31, 28-30, 30-24. The Bulldogs are off to their best start in 17 years.

"Gonzaga is doing much better this year," interim head coach Irene Matlock said. "They're a little older, and the maturity is helping them out. They had a good preseason, so their confidence should be a little bit higher. We anticipate a really tough match, which will help us get ready for Sac State."

Then, Eastern takes on Sacramento State in its second rivalry contest of the week. The Eagles and Hornets have played in the Big Sky Conference's championship match the last seven years. The teams have both finished in the top three of the final Big Sky regular-season standings for each of the last 11 years.

This season Sacramento State is off to its best start in 12 seasons at 17-3, and the Hornets are undefeated in Big Sky play at 6-0. Sac State does play host to Santa Clara (11-8) and Portland State (13-4, 7-0 BSC) in a league showdown prior to meeting the Eagles. Sacramento State has won 11 in a row and has earned seven straight sweeps.

"Sac State is doing incredibly well," Matlock said. "They're a solid team that does not make a lot of mistakes. We are obviously not as mature, so that is going to be a real test for us, especially down in their gym."

The third-place Eagles are coming off a tough week that saw Eastern get swept twice, once by Idaho and once by Portland State, both on the road. Allison Reinstein did a have a nice outing against the Vandals, hitting .421 (9-1-19), while Hayley Hills recorded her fifth double-double of the season against PSU with 11 kills and 10 digs.

 

Off to a Fast Big Sky Start

The Eastern Washington Eagles are off to a 5-2 start in Big Sky Conference play, its best since the 2004 squad began its league campaign 6-1.

The most recent wins were entertaining to say the least. On Sept. 29, the Eagles outlasted Northern Arizona 20-30, 30-27, 30-23, 31-33, 15-13. The drama was at peak level late, as the teams were never separated by more than two points from the time that Eastern held a 25-23 lead in the fourth game until the end of the fifth stanza.

Hayley Hills had 25 kills in the contest, currently tied for the fifth-highest total accumulated by a Big Sky player in 2007. Amanda Yausie had 51 assists, as well.

A loud crowd the day after Eastern students returned to classes helped boost the Eagles to a 23-30, 30-23, 30-21, 27-30, 15-10 victory over Northern Colorado two days earlier.

The statistical highlight of the match was Allison Reinstein's 11 blocks, tied for the fifth-most tallied by a Big Sky player so far in 2007. Alysha Cook had 19 kills, while Hills contributed a double-double with 18 kills and 11 digs.

An impressive road trip to the Treasure State saw Eastern Washington defeat Montana State 34-32, 30-19, 30-24 and Montana 24-30, 30-22, 30-26, 25-30, 15-12.

In the MSU contest, Mandy Daniels had the most outstanding performance for the Eagles, as she tallied 23 digs in the contest. That total was the most attained by an Eagle in a three-game contest since Andrea Verdoljak had 24 in an Oct. 27, 2005, contest with Sacramento State. Her total of 23 is also tied for the second most tallied by a Big Sky player in a three-game match this year.

Against Montana, the Eagles dramatically rallied from 8-4 down in the fifth game for the win. With the score tied 12-12, Eastern scored the final three points of the contest, helped by a very timely service ace by Chenoa Coviare to make the score 14-12.

The first weekend, Eastern rallied from a 30-27, 27-30, 32-30, 31-29 loss to Weber State for a 26-30, 30-25, 30-22, 30-26 win over Idaho State.

In the ISU match, Hills came within four kills of the school record with 30 (Kim Exner holds the mark with 34 against Portland State on Sept. 6, 1996). The total was the highest attained by an Eagle in at least five years and the second-highest attained by a league player so far this year (the most in a four-game match).

Daniels, meanwhile, not only had 29 digs in that contest, but also contributed 29 digs two days earlier versus Weber State. To put that into perspective, there have been only seven occurances since the beginning of the 2002 season of an Eagle earning 29 digs or more in a match. That total is also tied for the fifth-most recorded by a league participant in 2007.

 

Going the Limit

Eastern Washington played three straight five-game matches and won each of them. The wins came over Montana, Northern Colorado and Northern Arizona from Sept. 22-29.

That last happened for EWU when the Eagles toppled Nevada, Northern Arizona and Boise State in three successive five gamers from Sept. 21-28, 1990.

Eastern has not even played in three straight matches to go the limit since Oct. 12-16, 1993, when EWU lost to Washington State before beating Idaho State and Boise State.

"It makes for good entertainment, doesn't it?" interim head coach Irene Matlock asked. "It's good to know we can win in five."

To put that incredible stretch of matches into perspective, the Eagles only played two five gamers in two of the past three entire seasons (2006 and 2004; the 2005 team played five to go five).

Eastern has never played more than three straight five-game contests since joining the NCAA Division I ranks with the 1984 season.

 

Hills Getting Some Major Elevation

Sophomore outside hitter Hayley Hills has had an amazing set of performances this season. In the initial three weeks, she earned mention to all-tournament teams in each of the tournaments that Eastern Washington has played in, the Sheraton Four Points Wildcat Classic, the PowerAde/Asics Classic and the Waikiki Beach Marriott Volleyball Classic.

She is one of just four Big Sky Conference players to earn all-tournament honors three separate times this year. The others are Montana State's Laura Viren, Northern Arizona's Kim Babcock and Sacramento State's Missie Stidham and Lindsay Houpt (four times for Houpt).

Hills has led the Eagles in kills in 13-of-17 matches.

"Hayley is a dynamic player, a jumper, who has gotten the kills we have needed from the outside," interim head coach Irene Matlock said. "She also comes in with a combination in the middle, has done serve receiving/passing and is a good consistent server; she is an all-around player for us."

Her 30 kills against Idaho State on Sept. 15 was just four off of the school record (set at 34 by Kim Exner against Portland on Sept. 6, 1996). It's also the second-most accumulated by a Big Sky player so far in 2007, the most in a four-game match.

After having a double-double in Eastern's win over Northern Colorado with 18 kills and 11 digs, she tallied 25 kills to help lead the Eagles to a five-game win over Northern Arizona. That total is not only the second-highest posted by an Eagle so far in 2007, but tied for the fifth-highest tallied by any Big Sky player.

Her 3.97 kills per game average is not only tops on the team, but ranks the sophomore third among Big Sky players. She is second on the Eagles in digs per game with 2.24 and service aces per game with 0.24. Hills is also fourth in blocks per game with 0.46.

 

Spectacular in the Back

Serving as an impressive stabilizing force in the back row is junior Mandy Daniels. She has played well the entire season and is second among Big Sky Conference players in digs per game with 4.84 (her average in conference matches is an incredible 5.31 per game).

Daniels has posted 20+ dig totals on nine occasions so far this season.

On Sept. 20, she had 23 digs in Eastern's 3-0 win over Montana State, the highest total attained by an Eagle in a three-game match since Andrea Verdoljak had 24 in an Oct. 27, 2005, match with Sacramento State. That total is also tied for the second most recorded by a Big Sky player in a three-game match this season.

This first weekend of Big Sky Conference play, she had two of the best performances in Eagle history, tallying 29 digs in each contest. To put that into perspective, only seven times since the beginning of the 2002 season has any Eagle tallied 29 digs in a contest. That total is also tied for the fifth-most recorded by a league player so far in 2007.

"Mandy Daniels has done a great job as our libero," interim head coach Irene Matlock said. "She has dug some seriously great balls and has really picked up our defense."

 

Unstoppable Chenoa

Freshman middle blocker Chenoa Coviare had a simply amazing performance in Eastern Washington's incredible comeback 25-30, 23-30, 30-18, 30-19, 15-10 victory over Colgate on Aug. 31.

In that match, Coviare hit .750 (17-2-20), an extraordinary hitting percentage for a five-game match, and was literally perfect the final three games, hitting 1.000 (8-0-8) in those stanzas.

The hitting percentage was the highest recorded by an Eagle (with at least 12 kills) since Brittney Page hit .875 (15-1-16) in a 3-0 sweep of St. Francis (N.Y.) on Sept. 1, 2006. It is also the second-highest hitting percentage recorded by an Eagle in at least five years and the second-highest posted by a Big Sky Conference player in 2007.

In Eastern Washington's clutch 3-2 road win over Montana on Sept. 22, she also played well, as she tallied 14 kills and served at a high level, including serving up an ace to put Eastern up 14-12 in the fifth game.

"The ace at 14 was huge," interim head coach Irene Matlock said.

Coviare led the Eagles in kills in their match with Idaho, tallying 12. That marks the first time this season she has set the Eagles pace in that category. Previously Hayley Hills and Alysha Cook were the only two Eagles to lead the team in kills in a match.

She is tied for the team lead in blocks per game with 0.89 (Allison Reinstein also has 0.89 blocks per game).

 

Amazing Amanda

Eagle sophomore setter Amanda Yausie has recorded 50+ assist totals on three occasions in 2007, tallying 51 in three separate matches.

She had that total in Eastern's dramatic 3-2 win over Northern Arizona on Sept. 29. She also had that sum in a 3-1 loss to Utah State on Aug. 25 and in a 3-2 win over Colgate on Aug. 31.

Those totals tie for the sixth-highest assist total of her career.

She set a personal best in hitting percentage (eight attempts minimum) in the Utah State contest at .571 (8-0-14) before shattering that mark on Sept. 22 against Montana by hitting at a .625 clip (6-1-8).

Not only is she setting the team pace in assists per game (9.40), but also in service aces per game (0.28). Yausie is fifth among Big Sky Conference players in assists per game.

 

Awesome Ally

Freshman Allison Reinstein has been a blocking force for the Eagles in 2007, as she is tied for the team lead in blocks per game with 0.89 with Chenoa Coviare.

In Eastern's 3-2 win over Northern Colorado on Sept. 27, she had 11. That total is the most attained by an Eagle since Keva Sonderen had 12 against Weber State on Nov. 9, 2002.

That sum is not only the most recorded by an Eagle this year, but is the tied for the fifth-highest total tallied by a Big Sky player.

She impressively had at least four blocks in six straight matches from Sept. 15-Oct. 2.

 

Can You Smell What She is Cooking?

Freshman outside hitter Alysha Cook has played well for the Eagles, as her 2.38 kills per game average is the third-highest on the team. She is also third on the squad in blocks per game with 0.64.

In Eastern's 3-2 win over Northern Colorado on Sept. 27, she led the Eagles in kills for the third time this season with 19.

Cook led the team in kills in Eastern's match with No. 16 Hawai'i, contributing nine in that contest. She also had eight versus Wichita State.

"When she hits, she hits really hard, so that's a plus for us," interim head coach Irene Matlock said.

 

Ridiculous Ross

Sophomore outside hitter Chelsea Ross had her best hitting performance of the season on Sept. 22, as she hit at a .406 clip (15-2-32) in Eastern Washington's dramatic 3-2 win at Montana.

"Chelsea had a (season) personal best on her hitting percentage against Montana, so that was exciting," interim head coach Irene Matlock said. "She has blossomed and is coming into her own."

Ross' average of 2.42 kills per game is the second-highest on the team. She also had an impressive outing against Portland State on Friday (Oct. 5), hitting .333 (6-2-12).

Ross ended the 2006 season on the highest of highs, not only leading the team in hitting percentage in its two biggest matches of the season, but nearly breaking a record in the process.

In Eastern's 3-0 sweep over Portland State in the Big Sky Conference semifinals, Ross hit .692 (9-0-13), the third-highest hitting percentage in Big Sky Championship history

The next day, she hit .333 (5-1-12) in the championship match showdown with Sacramento State.

She has recorded double-digit kill totals seven times so far in 2007.

 

Ponce Returns Home

Honolulu native Kristen Ponce saw action in all three matches played in her home town at the Waikiki Beach Marriott Volleyball Classic from Sept. 6-8. She contributed 10 digs in Eastern's match with No. 19 Santa Clara.

"Kristen did a great job in the back court for us in Hawai'i," interim head coach Irene Matlock said. "She served some aces for us and is a great topspin jumper."

On the season, Ponce is contributing 2.02 digs per contest, the fourth-highest average on the squad.

 

Jumping Jacoby (and Baby)

Heather Jacoby (maiden name Gordon) returns to the Eagle volleyball program after a two-year hiatus. In that time period, she and her husband, Michael, lived in Leesville, La., where he served in the Army at Fort Polk. During their time there, two hurricanes (Rita and Katrina) hit the area, which is located about 110 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico near the Texas border.

She and Michael have a son, Justin, who was born on Feb. 16, 2007.

Jacoby has seen action in six matches for the Eagles so far. She played in all four games of Eastern's 26-30, 30-25, 30-22, 30-26 win over Idaho State on Sept. 15, tallying 11 kills in the process. That nearly tripled her previous career high for kills in a match, previously set at four against Providence on Sept. 15, 2003.

 

First Win on her Birthday

Eagle interim head coach Irene Matlock celebrated her birthday in a memorable manner on Aug. 31, as the Eagles were able to rally from 2-0 down to defeat Colgate, 25-30, 23-30, 30-18, 30-19, 15-10. That was also the first time that Eastern Washington has rallied from two games down since a 30-32, 26-30, 30-27, 32-30, 15-10 victory over Oregon State on Oct. 5, 2002.

Matlock came to Eastern with an impressive resume garnered from her time as the head coach at the Community Colleges of Spokane.

In her time at CCS, she amassed a stunning 715-246 record (.744 winning percentage), attaining winning marks in every season. Her 1988 record of 54-2 (.964) earned her the highest win total and winning percentage in Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges (NWAACC) history.

In 1994, she was named the AVCA National Coach of the Year at the community college level.

She also has previous experiences with Eastern Washington, having earned a master's in science degree from the school in 1979. From 1977-79, she served as assistant coach and athletic intern, and she acted as the program services administrator in 1979.

She took over for former head coach Wade Benson, who departed on July 2 to take a position at Auburn.

 

Let's Get This Party Started Early

Eastern Washington began the 2007 campaign with the earliest start date in school history, Aug. 24. The earliest pervious "opening day" for Eastern volleyball was Aug. 25, which happened last year as the Eagles began that season with 3-0 wins over Syracuse and Louisiana Tech.

 

Eagles Place Fifth in Preseason Poll

The Eastern Washington Eagles were selected fifth in the Big Sky Conference's preseason poll. Five-time defending champion Sacramento placed first and was followed by Portland State, Montana, Weber State, EWU, Northern Arizona, Idaho State, Northern Colorado and Montana State.

 

Where Will the Team Start the 2008 Season?

The Eastern Washington Eagles have now opened the past nine seasons (1999-2007) in nine different districts/states (in chronological order from 1999: District of Columbia, Michigan, Maine, Florida, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Kansas and Arizona).

 

Big Sky Championship Alterations

There will be a couple of changes to the Big Sky Conference Championship this year, as the tournament will be played at a predetermined site and will be contested over just two days, not three.

Sacramento State, by virtue of its regular-season title last year, will play host to the Championship. Previously, the current season's regular-season champion would host the tournament.

The matches will take place from Nov. 23-24, with both the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds taking place the first day and the final the second.

The NCAA Tournament begins the following weekend at 16 nonpredetermined campus sites throughout the country.

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