Comeback Kids Back Home

Oct. 22, 2007

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The Eastern Washington University volleyball team is grateful to have a significant stretch of home matches to finish out its 2007 regular season, as the Eagles will play 5-of-7 matches in the friendly confines of Reese Court.

Eastern Washington is coming off two more comeback wins. After rallying for a 29-31, 30-20, 30-26, 32-30 victory over Idaho State, the Eagles completed their perfect road trip with a 23-30, 30-25, 30-21, 30-24 win against Weber State. The latter victory broke a third-place tie the Eagles (8-13, 7-3 BSC) had had with the Wildcats (6-4 BSC) and put the Eagles just behind second-place Portland State (8-2 BSC).

The Eagles have incredibly come from behind for wins seven times in 2007. To put that into perspective, the Eagles came back for a victory just 19 times (out of 114 wins) over the past five seasons combined, an average of 3.8 per season.

"We had a good week," interim head coach Irene Matlock said. "We didn't start off particularly well against Idaho State, but we ended well. Weber State was such a great win because they had swept second-place Portland State on Thursday and we were tied for third with Weber going in. Definitely a big match for us.

"We talked about narrowing our focus, (assistant coach) Miles (Kydd) brought that up, and focus on what we're doing without being distracted. We played so well against Weber, very exciting."

Hayley Hills had the best week for the Eagles, as she led the team in kills in both matches (21 versus Idaho State, 22 against Weber State) and in digs versus the Wildcats (12). She also had 15 versus ISU, the second-highest total on the team. Following her outstanding week of play, she was named Co-Big Sky Conference Player of the Week (sharing honors with Northern Arizona's Kim Babcock). She became the first Eagle to be honored by the league in this manner since Brittney Page earned POW accolades on Oct. 16, 2006.

"Hayley had a really good weekend, and we're very excited she got Co-Big Sky Player of the Week," Matlock said. "She's been leading for us in the outside hitter position and to be able to do that as a sophomore is very exciting.

"She couldn't have done it without our middles being productive; it doesn't open up the outside unless Alli (Reinstein) and Chenoa (Coviare) are doing their jobs. It's definitely a team effort when anything like this happens."

Coming up this week are the Montana schools. The Eagles take on Montana on Thursday (Oct. 25) and Montana State on Saturday (Oct. 27). Both matches will begin at 7 p.m.

"We're excited about this week," Matlock said. "Personally, I'm also excited to see my niece, Erin Naipo, who is an assistant coach at Montana State. We're also excited about our faculty and staff appreciation night that we're holding on Thursday."

The Grizzlies had their own comeback win on Thursday, rallying for a 26-30, 30-28, 30-17, 30-28 win over Northern Colorado to stay within a match of a Big Sky Conference Tournament spot. Montana is currently 4-6 in league play and sitting in seventh place, just behind Northern Arizona and UNC (5-5 BSC each). Eastern Washington defeated Montana (8-12) in a barnburner in the team's first meeting in Missoula on Sept. 22, 24-30, 30-22, 30-26, 25-30, 15-12. The Eagles have now won 12 straight meetings in the all-time series.

Montana State is having a tough season, as the Bobcats are 1-21 overall, 0-10 in Big Sky play. The closest the Bobcats have come to a Big Sky win came in a 27-30, 30-24, 30-27, 24-30, 15-11 loss to Idaho State on Oct. 13. The Eagles won the teams' first meeting, 34-32, 30-19, 30-24, on Sept. 20. Eastern has won five consecutive matches played between the teams.


Off to a Fast Big Sky Start

The Eastern Washington Eagles are off to a 7-3 start in Big Sky Conference play, its best start since the 2004 team went 12-2 and won a regular-season title. Eastern rebounded from a 3-1 loss in its league-opening contest to win five straight matches before falling on the road to the first- and second-place teams, Sacramento State and Portland State, respectively. The Eagles then swept the Idaho State-Weber State road trip last week for wins six and seven.

The last two home conference 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 eighth-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 fourth 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 eighth-most recorded by a league participant in 2007.


Going the Limit

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

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, but last week may have been her best, as she was named Co-Big Sky Conference Player of the Week following a pair of outstanding performances (sharing the honors with Northern Arizona's Kim Babcock).

She led the team in kills in both matches (21 versus Idaho State, 22 against Weber State) and in digs versus the Wildcats (12). She also had 15 versus ISU, the second-highest total on the team. Hills became the first Eagle to be honored as league POW since Brittney Page did so on Oct. 16, 2006.

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 16-of-20 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.

Hills had 20 kills against Sacramento State on Oct. 13, the most recorded by an Eagle in a three-game match since Lizzy Mellor had 21 in a sweep of Gonzaga on Oct. 18, 2005. She also hit .340 (20-4-47) in that match.

Her 4.17 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 2.38 and service aces per game with 0.23. Hills is also fifth in blocks per game with 0.48.


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.

Daniels has posted 20+ dig totals on 11 occasions so far this season.

On Oct. 13, she had 24 digs in Eastern's match with Sacramento 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 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 seventh-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. It's a nice, secure feeling having Mandy on the floor. She certainly helps us out."


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 with Allison Reinstein for the team lead in blocks with 0.93.


Sensational Setters

The Eagles have seen Amanda Yausie and Ashley Hamilton both see plenty of time as Eastern's setter this year. After Yausie saw most of the setting time the first part of the season, Hamilton has been Eastern's primary setter in its last four matches.

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 (8.90), but also in service aces per game (0.24). Yausie is sixth among Big Sky Conference players in assists per game.

Hamilton is averaging 6.67 assists per game. Her high assist total is 43, set against Idaho State on Thursday (Oct. 18). She then almost hit that mark two days later at Weber State before finishing with 40. Her best hitting performance came against the Bengals, as she hit .500 (5-0-10) in that contest.


Awesome Ally

Freshman Allison Reinstein has been a blocking force for the Eagles in 2007, as she is tied for the team lead in that category with Chenoa Coviare with 0.96 per game.

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 tied for the seventh-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 2.60 kills per game average is the second-highest on the team. She is also third on the squad in blocks per game with 0.73.

She set the team pace in kills against Gonzaga on Oct. 9 with 12, hitting .375 (12-3-24) in the process. In Eastern's 3-2 win over Northern Colorado on Sept. 27, she also led the team in putaways 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 2.34 kills per game is the third-highest on the team. She also had an impressive outing against Portland State on 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 nine times so far in 2007, including both times last week against Idaho State and Weber State. She had 12 in each of those contests.


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 2.00 digs per contest, the third-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 four years ago to the day 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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