Eastern focuses on middle hitting in preseason scrimmage
Despite the return of two Big Sky MVPs, the Eastern Washington University volleyball team handled the alumni squad with ease on Saturday (Aug. 18) in the annual alumni scrimmage at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. The 2012 Eagles beat the alumni, 3-0 (25-10, 25-13, 25-17), and also won a bonus fourth set by a score of 25-16.
Head coach Miles Kydd used this scrimmage to experiment with several different rotations, as almost every healthy player on the bench played at least one set. Eastern’s four young middle hitters were especially active in the preseason outing.
“One of our main goals was the run the middles as much as we could,” said Kydd. “That connection between the middle and setter takes time to develop, and we wanted to make sure they all got a lot of reps.”
The most veteran of the quartet, sophomore Talia Fermantez, had five kills and two blocks for the Eagles.
In her first outing in red and white, redshirt-freshman Kellen Barfield had a nearly flawless game, tallying six kills with no errors on 10 attempts. She also contributed three blocks. Fellow redshirt-freshman Rachel Morrow chipped in three kills and four blocks, while true freshman Allison Doerpinghaus tied the team-high with four blocks.
Although much attention was paid to the middles, Eastern’s outside hitters were also busy. Sophomore Kayla Randles led the team with eight kills, while her classmate Kelsey Julian added seven kills and eight digs.
Seniors Cora Kellerman and Shelby Puckett, both of whom were recognized last year on the All-Big Sky team, combined for 10 kills and 11 digs.
Freshman Ryann Ensrud out of Puyallup, Wash., filled the role of libero on Saturday, picking up 18 digs for EWU.
“I thought Ryann did a great job,” said Kydd. “She was never out of place and played steady in all four sets. It was nice to see a freshman come out and not play like a freshman.”
Quarterbacking the Eagle offense was junior setter Lindsay Niemeier, who finished with 36 assists, seven digs, three kills and one block.
The alumni team featured nine former Eagle volleyball players, including 2004 Big Sky MVP Keva Sonderen and 2008 MVP Hayley Hills. Sonderen had five kills and a team-high 12 digs for the alumni. Hills, who ranks second in the EWU all-time career record book for kills, was held to just four in Saturday’s scrimmage. She did contribute six digs, three blocks and one ace.
2010 graduates Jacque Bassett (formerly Brown) and Alysha King (formerly Cook) also made it back for the event, as the two outside hitters combined for nine kills and 14 digs.
Heather Jacoby (2003-04, 07) and Angela Spoja (1995-96) split setting duties for the alumni, as Jacoby tallied seven assists and Spoja 18.
Eastern will officially open the 2012 campaign next weekend at the UniWyo Wyoming Invitational in Laramie, Wyoming. Eastern plays San Francisco and Seattle on Friday (Aug. 24), followed by two more matches on Saturday (Aug. 25) against Presbyterian and host-Wyoming.