Trying to snap a two-match losing streak, Eagles host co-leader Northern Colorado on Friday followed by rematch with Northern Arizona on Senior Night on Saturday
It's time to get tournament ready for the Eastern Washington University volleyball team.
The Eagles will try to get back on track as they host co-Big Sky Conference leader Northern Colorado on Friday (Nov. 13) before hosting Northern Arizona on Senior Night on Saturday (Nov. 14). Both matches begin at 7 p.m. Pacific time at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
Eastern enters with a two-match losing streak, and stands at 9-4 in the Big Sky Conference heading into action this week. The Eagles have three matches left before hosting the Big Sky Conference Championships Nov. 27-28 at Reese Court.
"Defending our home court is a big deal for us and we have to get back on track a little bit," said Eastern head coach Miles Kydd. "Last year after 13 matches we were also 9-4, so we're not going to freak out too much. We have two of our last three at home, and that will help. We'll try to win on Friday night and then worry about Saturday."
Eastern is currently third in the league standings behind Portland State and UNC at 11-2, and those two teams square off Saturday in Portland. Having defeated the Bears earlier this season in Greeley, Colo., an Eastern victory on Friday would help in tiebreaker scenarios against the Bears.
Eastern is a full two games ahead of fourth-place Montana (7-6), with the top four teams advancing to the tournament. However, as defending regular season champion and host, the Eagles are guaranteed a play-in game on Nov. 27 in case they don't finish in the top four.
"The bottom line is we have to start playing better and start our preparations for the tournament," said Kydd. "But every time we play we are playing to win. We definitely don't want to coast heading into the conference tournament."
Saturday will be a rematch of a five-set match the Lumberjacks won on Oct. 15. Eastern responded with a four-match winning streak, but has lost its last two matches to Montana (3-1 on Oct. 31) and Portland State (3-0 on Nov. 6). The Vikings also defeated EWU 3-1 in Portland on Oct. 9.
"We don't think we played very well and we're about to find out what the difference will be in the rematch," said Kydd, whose team allowed NAU to hit .556 in a pivotal second-set victory on Oct. 15. "This is a match we feel like we should come out on the positive side. They beat us once before, and they hit a higher percentage than what we would like to allow. But we were able to force it to a fifth game and then it's always a crapshoot."
Following this week's matches, Eastern plays a non-conference match at Washington State on Nov. 17 and then concludes regular season play in the Big Sky at Sacramento State on Nov. 21.
Eagles to Honor Four Seniors on Saturday -- Four seniors -- all of them starters for the Eagles -- will be honored in pre-game ceremonies prior to Eastern's game Saturday versus Northern Arizona. Leading the way is Hayley Hills, who ranks second in school history and 19th all-time in the Big Sky Conference with 1,366 career kills. She has started all 24 Eastern matches this season and is averaging 3.56 kills and 2.59 digs per set with a .158 hitting percentage.
Ashley Hamilton has also started all 24 matches and is averaging 9.36 assists and 1.31 kills per set, and Amanda Yausie has started 17 of 24 matches. She is averaging 1.66 digs per set while Mortensen, a defensive specialist who is the team's libero, is averaging a team-high 3.21 digs per set. Hills, Yausie and Mortensen each have a team-leading 17 ace serves, and Hamilton has15.
"All four of our graduating seniors are starters and that speaks well for them," said Eastern head coach Miles Kydd. "They have made a tremendous commitment to Eastern and have been major contributors to our program. We hate to lose such a great group of seniors, but that's the nature of college athletics -- they come and then they go."
#1 - JaNae Mortensen - DS - Pleasant Grove, Utah (Snow College / Pleasant Grove H.S. '06)
#3 - Ashley Hamilton - S - Alpine, Utah (Arizona / Lone Peak H.S. '06)
#9 - Amanda Yausie - S - Colonsay, Saskatchewan (Colonsay H.S. '06)
#13 - Hayley Hills - OH - Quesnel, B.C. (Correlieu Secondary '06)
Eagles to Host Big Sky Championships -- After claiming the Big Sky Conference's regular-season title in 2008, the Eagles earned the right to host the league's 2009 Tournament.
The semifinals will take place at 5 and 7 p.m. on Nov. 27, while the title contest will start at 7 p.m. the following evening. The winner of that match will earn the league's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament, which starts the following weekend.
The Eagles previously hosted the tournament in 2004, 2003, 2002 and 1989.
Hills in Second on Career Kills List -- Senior outside hitter Hayley Hills has climbed into the second spot on Eastern Washington's career kills list, as she now has 1,366. Her total only trails the school record of 1,860, set by Kim Exner (1995-98), and also ranks 19th all-time in Big Sky Conference history.
Hills is also currently second in school history in kills per set, embedded into that slot with a 3.88 average. Holding the record is Exner (4.43); in third is Juli Argotow (3.42).
Hills earned her 1,000th kill in a 3-1 win at Sacramento State on Nov. 21 of last year. That gained her entry to the 1,000-kill club, becoming the eighth Eagle in history to do so.
Following impressive performance in wins over Montana and Montana State on Sept. 18 and 19, respectively, Hills was named the Big Sky Conference Player of the Week. In those two matches, she averaged 4.71 kills and 3.14 digs per set in helping the Eagles to 3-1 and 3-0 respective wins over the Grizzlies and Bobcats. In the Montana State match, she had 21 kills in a three-set match.
Hills also earned POW honors on four occasions a year ago.
Eagles Rank Nationally in Attendance -- The Eastern Washington Eagles have earned the attention of the greater Spokane area and it has shown, as the team is averaging 926 fans per contest, an average that ranks the squad 48th in the country (through matches in October).
The highlight of the home schedule came on Oct. 9 when 1,440 saw the Eagles take on Portland State in a first-versus-second battle. That crowd was the largest for a home contest since Sept. 23, 2006, when 1,484 saw Eastern take on Northern Colorado.
The Eagles have ranked in the top 40 in attendance in 11 of the past 12 years. Eastern Washington has won 16 of its last 17 contests at Reese Court, including a 7-1 record at home this season.