October 14, 2008

Four Home Matches Await

Oct. 14, 2008

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After earning emotional wins over Big Sky Conference first-place team Portland State and local rivals Gonzaga, the Eastern Washington University volleyball team plays host to the six-time defending Big Sky champions Sacramento State at 7 p.m. on Saturday (Oct. 18).

Over this past weekend, EWU outlasted Portland State, which is currently tied for first place in the Big Sky standings with Northern Colorado with 5-2 marks, by 23-25, 26-24, 25-23, 25-21 scores before defeating Gonzaga in a thriller, 25-14, 25-20, 15-25, 24-26, 15-11.

Sacramento State got off to a poor start this year, 2-14, 0-2 in Big Sky play, before rallying to win 4-of-5 contests, the four wins each coming in conference matches to improve to 6-15, 4-2 BSC. The Hornets are just ahead of the Eagles (8-9, 4-3 BSC) in the league standings.

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

Saturday's match marks the first of four straight on the EWU campus for the Eagles. EWU plays host to three more matches next week, on Oct. 21, 23 and 25, respectively.

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, and she also had 26 against Weber State on Sept. 18 and against Northern Colorado on Oct. 4.

She earned Big Sky Player of the Week accolades on Sept. 29 and on Oct. 13. The first time, she had 5.86 kills and 3.14 digs per set against Montana State and Montana. She also hit at a .431 clip (41-10-72) in the pair of contests. The second time, Hills had a relatively rare 20-20 night in the week's only match, compiling 20 kills and 21 digs in a 3-1 defeat of first-place Portland State. The dig total is a career high for the junior outside hitter.

"Her defense is starting to come along," head coach Miles Kydd said. "We have worked with her on staying engaged on defense, and she's starting to do that better."

Her season average of 4.38 kills per set not only leads all Big Sky players, but also ranks her 13th 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 she attained accolades at the Idaho Volleyball Classic on Sept. 6.

Her career average of 3.79 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 Enters Top-Five List                                  
Senior libero Mandy Daniels hit and surpassed the 1,000-dig mark the first week of the season and has now inserted herself into the No. 5 spot on the EWU all-time career digs chart with 1,178.

Compiling 30 in Eastern's 3-2 loss to No. 17 Colorado State on Aug. 30 pushed her career total to 1,017. 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 that dig total when she had 31 in EWU's 3-1 win over Montana on 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 4.30 is ahead of Verdoljak's 3.95 (2002-04). It is especially incredible that she has actually kept her digs per set average steady 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).

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 9.79 assists per set, the fourth-highest average among Big Sky Conference players and 93rd-best 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, in a 3-2 road win over Weber State, she had 59 assists, which is the third-highest total by any Big Sky Conference player so far in 2008.

Then, versus Montana State and Montana on Sept. 25 and 27, respectively, she not only contributed 11.14 assists per set, but 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. "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 0.95 blocks per set, an average that ranks her fifth in the Big Sky Conference and 189th among NCAA Division I players.

Over the past six matches, she has contributed an impressive 1.41 blocks per set (31 blocks in 22 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."

How Close Can it Get?                                
The current Big Sky Conference standings are incredibly close, as the top seven teams are separated by the slimmest of margins. The nine league squads are nearing the half-way point of the 2008 campaign.

Northern Colorado and Portland State are currently setting the pace at 5-2, while six-time defending league champion Sacramento State is just behind in third at 4-2.

Tied for fourth are Eastern Washington and Northern Arizona, who each possess 4-3 records, while Montana and Weber State are in a sixth-place stalemate with 3-3 marks.

Eagles Lead Big Sky in Three Categories               
The Eastern Washington Eagles are having an impressive year, which is also evidenced by the fact that the team as a whole leads the Big Sky Conference in three different statistical categories.

These include assists per set (12.52), kills per set (13.38) and service aces per set (2.31).

Trio Earns 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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