Final Road Trip Awaits
Oct. 29, 2007
The Eastern Washington University volleyball team will ride a four-match winning streak into its road trip to Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado this week. The Eagles take on NAU at 7 p.m. on Thursday (Nov. 1) before playing the Bears two days later at 6 p.m. Pacific Time. The Northern Arizona match will be broadcast live on FSN Arizona, FCS Atlantic and Dish Network 9411.
The Eagles won an absolutely incredible match on Thursday (Oct. 25), outlasting Montana 30-26, 35-37, 40-38, 22-30, 17-15 in a thrilling contest, one of the highest scoring in NCAA Division I history. The Grizzlies came within three points of the national record for points in a match (since the advent of rally scoring in 2001) while Eastern was five away from that mark. The Eagles were down 14-12 in the fifth game before staving off two match points for the victory.
"To bring that one back with the intensity of play that we did is a great sign for our team," interim head coach Irene Matlock said.
Then two days later, Eastern Washington outlasted Montana State 30-15, 30-24, 21-30, 30-20 to continue its hold on third place in the league standings. The Eagles (9-3 BSC) are just behind Portland State (10-2) and Sacramento State (9-1) in the race for the regular-season title.
"We're young and we displayed that against Montana State, a team that hasn't won a Big Sky match," Matlock said. "Our intensity level was matching their intensity level - we're just not consistent at playing at a certain level yet, but we did get the win."
Eastern (10-13) has also shown a never-say-die attitude this year, rallying from behind on seven occasions. The Eagles may not have been behind in games against Montana, but the team did come back from a 27-22 deficit in game three in addition to its from-the-brink rally from 14-12 in the fifth stanza.
In Thursday's game this week, EWU will take on a team it has defeated in 11-of-12 meetings in Northern Arizona (10-11, 5-6 BSC). The teams played a five-game thriller in their first match-up of 2007 on Sept. 29 with Eastern winning 20-30, 30-27, 30-23, 31-33, 15-13. The drama was at a 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.
Meanwhile, Eastern is leading the brief all-time series with UNC 2-1. The Bears (8-16, 6-5 BSC) are coming off a shocking 31-29, 30-26, 20-30, 30-32, 15-10 victory over Sacramento State, a team which had previously been undefeated in Big Sky play and closing in on a spot in the AVCA Top 25.
When the Eagles and Bears met on Sept. 27, a loud crowd (bolstered by the return of students to classes the day before) helped boost Eastern to a 23-30, 30-23, 30-21, 27-30, 15-10 win.
Hills Has Second Straight Outstanding Week
Fresh off Co-Big Sky Player of the Week accolades (earned on Oct. 22), Hayley Hills had another outstanding week. In Eastern's wins over Montana and Montana State, she once again led the team in kills in both matches and in digs in one of two matches this past week. In Eastern's dramatic 3-2 win over Montana, she had 24 kills to lead the team and 19 digs to place second on the squad in that category. Hills then led EWU in both categories in the team's 3-1 victory over Montana State, contributing 20 kills and 19 digs.
Both dig totals are career highs for Hills, breaking her former personal mark by four, while her 20+ kill totals were her eighth and ninth of the season.
Last week, Hills 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. The performances allowed Hills to become the first Eagle to be honored by the league in this manner since Brittney Page earned POW accolades on Oct. 16, 2006.
A Match for the Ages
The Eagles won an absolutely incredible match on Thursday (Oct. 25), outlasting Montana 30-26, 35-37, 40-38, 22-30, 17-15 in a thrilling contest, one of the highest scoring in NCAA Division I history.
The Grizzlies came within three points of the national record for points in a match (since the advent of rally scoring in 2001) while Eastern was five away from the mark.
When Eastern lost game two 37-35, it was the highest-scoring game that the team had played in since a 39-37, 28-30, 30-22, 30-18 win over Boise State on Oct. 21, 2004.
Then, about 40 minutes later, the Eagles surpassed even that by winning the third game 40-38. That became the team's highest-scoring game ever played.
The match was full of comebacks as well. Montana was down 25-20 and 29-27 before rallying for its game two win. In the third game, Eastern rallied from a 27-22 deficit by going on a 7-1 run for a 29-28 lead and the first of eight game points.
Then, in game five, the Eagles were holding on tenuously by a thread, trailing 14-12. At that point, the night got crazier when libero Mandy Daniels earned a kill when her attempt to just get the ball over the net landed for an Eagle point. Then a pair of Hayley Hills kills earned Eastern its own match point at 15-14.
Following a Montana point to tie the contest, Allison Reinstein earned EWU another match point when she put away a floater which was about to land on the top of the net. A UM attack error finally put an end to the three-hour marathon.
Eastern Washington is having an incredible season of comebacks, having done so on seven occasions this season.
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.
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.
Overall this season the Eagles are 5-0 in five-game matches.
Hills Getting Some Major Elevation
Sophomore outside hitter Hayley Hills has had an amazing set of performances this season, but the last two weeks may have been her best, as she earned Big Sky Conference Player of the Week accolades both weeks.
That was the first time the same Eagle has earned POW accolades since Lizzy Mellor did on Oct. 18 and 25, 2004.
She led the team in kills in all four matches over those two weeks and in digs in two of those contests.
In the initial three weeks of the 2007 campaign, 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 18-of-22 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 4.24 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 2.57. She is also four in service aces per game with 0.21 and 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 leading all Big Sky Conference players in digs per game with 4.85.
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."
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 also tied for ninth in the Big Sky Conference (and tops on the team) in blocks per game with 1.00.
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 several 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 (8.79), but is second in service aces per game (0.24). Yausie is sixth among Big Sky Conference players in assists per game.
Hamilton is averaging 6.69 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.
Freshman Allison Reinstein has been a blocking force for the Eagles in 2007, as she is second on the team in that category with 0.94, just behind the 1.00 needed to bring into the list of top 10 blockers in the Big Sky.
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 2.73 kills per game average is the second-highest on the team. She is also third on the squad in blocks per game with 0.76.
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.
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 1.92 digs per contest, the third-highest average on the squad.
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.
Ross' average of 2.40 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 recorded double-digit kill totals nine times so far in 2007.
Unfortunately, Ross suffered a season-ending knee injury in Eastern's match against Montana on Thursday (Oct. 25).
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.