Northern Colorado tops the Eagles in a five-set battle 3-2 to end Eastern’s bid for a Big Sky Conference title and NCAA Tournament berth
The Eastern Washington University volleyball team battled back from two sets down to force a fifth set but was unable to defeat the Northern Colorado Bears and fell 3-2 Friday (Nov. 27).
With the win, the Bears advance to the Big Sky Conference Championship match Saturday (Nov 28) against the No. 1 seed Portland State Vikings beginning at 7 p.m. at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. The scores were 25-17, 25-23, 14-25, 20-25, and 15-13
Eastern dropped the first two sets against the Bears, including a close second set in which the Eagles were down 24-20 late in the set. Eastern was able to rally back to within one point at 24-23 with two kills by Alysha Cook, but was unable to complete the comeback and fell 25-23.
The Eagles stormed back in the third set for a lopsided 25-14 victory that saw Eastern hit at a .519 clip, with Northern Colorado hitting a .189 percentage. After winning the fourth set 25-20, Eastern quickly found themselves down 5-0 in the fifth. The Eagles came back to make it a 12-12 set but two kills in a row by Ashley Lichtenberg sealed the victory for the Bears.
“Coming back from 2-0 down, being one point away when one play equals two points -- they got the point and we didn’t,” said head coach Miles Kydd. “We were two plays away from winning the match and one point from tying the match.”
Leading the Eagles in kills was Chenoa Coviare who finished the match with 14. Other Eagles in double-figure kills were Hayley Hills with 12 and Sara Todorovich with 11. Todorovich’s 11 kills came on just 15 attacks for a .733 hitting percentage. Ashley Hamilton finished the match with 42 assists, and Hills led the team in digs with 15. Eastern had 17 team blocks compared to Northern Colorado’s five.
“The girls showed a lot of character and a lot of desire,” said Kydd. “I give them full credit for being able to fight back because we didn’t play very well in the first two sets.”
The loss marks the second-straight five set match for the Eagles, as they were down two sets in their last regular season game at Sacramento State on Nov. 21 but completed the comeback with a 3-2 win.
Eastern finishes their season with an 18-11 overall record. This year’s appearance in the Big Sky Championship marks the fourteenth-straight season the Eagles have made the post-season tournament.
In the first semifinal matchup of the night, No. 4 seed Montana gave No. 1 seed Portland State a tough time but ended up falling to the Vikings 3-1. Portland State will now meet Northern Colorado in the final Saturday night with the conference title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line.