Treasure State Trip Awaits

Oct. 28, 2008

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After a perfect 6-0 stint in a six-match stretch of contests that took place in the Cheney-Spokane area, the Eastern Washington University volleyball team now hits the road for a short road trip (by Big Sky Conference standards) to Montana and Montana State.

The Eagles (12-9, 7-3 BSC) will face off with the Grizzlies at 6 p.m. Pacific Time on Thursday (Oct. 30), while EWU and Montana State will play at 5 p.m. on Saturday (Nov. 1).

This past week, the Eagles swept Seattle University 3-0 before defeating Idaho State and Weber State by identical 3-1 scores. The first three matches of this six-contest stretch saw Eastern Washington first beat defending regular-season champion Portland State 3-1 before taking down local rival Gonzaga 3-2 and six-time defending Big Sky champion Sacramento State 3-2.

“We played well last week, especially on Saturday (against Weber State),” head coach Miles Kydd said. “In the last three sets, we were as good as we have played all year in terms of being in control, and staying in control, of the match.

“Obviously, we want to finish in one of the top two spots (to earn a bye into the Big Sky semifinals), so we have to keep winning and turn around our struggles on the road (EWU is 7-0 at home, 2-6 on the road).”

Montana is 9-11, 5-5 in Big Sky matches. Over the weekend, the Grizzlies lost to Northern Colorado 3-1 after defeating Northern Arizona 3-0 in a pair of road contests. Montana is 7-1 at home so far this year (its only setback came to Weber State 3-1 in its last home outing on Oct. 18).

Montana State is having a tough season, as the team enters the week 0-10 in Big Sky contests, 3-17 overall. The Bobcats are looking to snap a 30-match Big Sky losing streak this week and face Portland State on Thursday prior to hosting the Eagles two days later.

Hills Hits 30 Kills, Nears 1,000 Putaways, Named POW for 3rd Time, Ranks 10th Nationally  
Hayley Hills has performed at an incredibly high level this year, as she has posted the four highest kill totals in the Big Sky Conference so far in 2008. The highest, a 30-kill output, helped Eastern to a 3-1 defeat of Idaho State on Thursday (Oct. 23).

Not only is that the highest kill total posted by any NCAA Division I player in a four-set match so far in 2008, but it was just three away from the 2008 high for a Division I competitor in a match of any length. It also was just four shy of the Eastern Washington school record (34, held by Kim Exner and achieved against Portland on Sept. 6, 1996).

That performance in addition to solid ones in a 3-0 win over Seattle University on Tuesday (Oct. 21) and Weber State on Saturday (Oct. 25) earned the junior outside hitter Big Sky Conference Player of the Week accolades for the third time this season. Prior conference accolades were earned on Oct. 13 and Sept. 29. She is the first Eagle to be named POW three times in the same season since Janelle Ruen did so in 2002. 

Over the week, she averaged 5.73 kills per set and hit .310 (63-18-145), while contributing 2.55 digs per set, second on the team in that category behind libero Mandy Daniels.

She was also named a Top Performer on a national level by for her performances.

Her season average of 4.44 kills per set not only leads all Big Sky players, but ranks her 10th among all NCAA Division I players.

In her career, Hills has tallied 934 kills and is nearing the 1,000-kill mark, an achievement that only seven Eagles had previously achieved.

The second time she earned the POW award, 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.”

The first time, she hit .431 (41-10-72) and had 5.86 kills and 3.14 digs per set against Montana State and Montana.

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 3.96 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.

“We are not going to win if just Hayley is playing well, and we need to keep contributions from other players, but there is no doubt Hayley is playing at a high level,” Kydd said.

Get Off! Get Off! 
Eastern Washington threw a pair of monkeys off its back within a week earlier this month.

The Eagles first beat local rival Gonzaga 25-14, 25-20, 15-25, 24-26, 15-11 on Oct. 13 to snap a two-match, two-year losing streak to the Bulldogs and earn their first win over GU since a 3-0 victory on Oct. 18, 2005.

Then, five days later, EWU earned its first win over six-time defending Big Sky Conference champion Sacramento State 25-17, 16-25, 22-25, 27-25, 15-12, since a 3-1 victory on Nov. 4, 2004. That ended a run of 10 straight wins by the Hornets versus Eastern.

However, when head coach Miles Kydd was told about those streaks, he stated that his focus was, and is, not on the past.

“I didn’t know about those (streaks),” Kydd said. “For us, Sacramento State is another league match, one we feel we should win. Gonzaga is a regional rival, so that is an important match just for the sake we want to be considered the top team in the Inland Northwest.” (in head-to-head matches between EWU, Gonzaga, Washington State and Idaho in 2008, the Eagles and Idaho went 2-1, while the Bulldogs and Cougars finished 1-2).

Daniels Enters Top-Five List                                  
Senior libero Mandy Daniels hit and surpassed the 1,000-dig mark the first week of the season and is now in the No. 5 spot on the EWU all-time career digs chart with 1,254. Next on the list is Janelle Ruen, who had 1,298 from 1999-02.

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 tied for the eighth-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.

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 sixth-most by a Big Sky player this year. That total is also tied for the 24th-most by an NCAA Division I player in a four-set match this year.

After a quality first weekend of play, she earned mention to the Hilton Classic’s All-Tournament team. That week, she averaged 5.27 digs per set.

Daniels is on pace to set the school record for career digs per set, as her current average of 4.32 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).

She currently ranks fifth in the Big Sky and 79th among NCAA Division I players in digs per set.

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 9.70 assists per set, the fourth-highest average among Big Sky Conference players and 102nd-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 1.01 blocks per set, an average that ranks her fifth in the Big Sky Conference and 134th among NCAA Division I players.

Over the past seven matches, she has contributed an impressive 1.28 blocks per set (41 blocks in 32 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 top of the Big Sky Conference standings are appear to lead towards another three-horse race for the regular-season crown (and, with it, the right to host the 2009 Big Sky Championship).

Northern Colorado is setting the pace in the conference with an 8-2 league mark, 14-5 overall. The Bears had finished in fifth place their first two seasons in the league.

Eastern Washington and Portland State are tied for second at 7-3. The Eagles are 12-9 overall, while the Vikings are 14-6. Portland State claimed the regular-season title last year, beating out Sacramento State on a tiebreaker after each team went 13-3.

Meanwhile, Eastern Washington was just behind in third last year at 12-4.

Speaking of Sacramento State, the Hornets are in fourth and very much looking to join the top three. Sacramento State is 5-3 in league contests, 7-16 overall, and has won the last six Big Sky championships.

Six teams advance to the Big Sky Championship with the top two earning byes into the semifinals. Portland State, by virtue of its 2007 regular-season title, will host the two-day event from Nov. 28-29.

Among Nation’s Best in Attendance 
The Eastern Washington volleyball team currently ranks 36th among NCAA Division I teams in average attendance at 1,004. The Eagles are 14th among teams from non-BCS conferences.

Four home crowds this year have surpassed the 1,000 mark with the high mark coming in the home opener on Sept. 25, a 3-0 win over Montana State (1,282).

The Eagles have ranked in the top 30 in attendance in 10 of the past 11 years.

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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