Mortensen tallies career-high 27 digs in dramatic Big Sky Conference win
The Eastern Washington University volleyball team was on the verge of falling in a sweep to Idaho State in Pocatello for the second straight season, but ensured this year was different with a dramatic comeback. The Eagles rallied for a 17-25, 21-25, 25-21, 25-17, 15-13 road win over the Bengals on Friday evening (Sept. 25).
The rally from a 2-0 deficit was the first for Eastern since a 25-30, 23-30, 30-18, 30-19, 15-10 win over Colgate on Aug. 31, 2007, in a match played in San Francisco, Calif.
"We grinded one out tonight," head coach Miles Kydd said. "That is something we have been talking about - when we don't play picture perfect, we need to keep battling and battling."
The Big Sky Conference affair saw Idaho State (5-7, 1-2 BSC) completely dominate the first set and much of the second. In the initial stanza, the Bengals went up 13-5 and did not allow Eastern to get closer than six points the rest of the way in a 25-17 ISU win.
The second set was headed that way, as Idaho State jumped out to a 13-6 advantage, although the Eagles did start battling back to cut their deficit to three at 20-17. However, the Bengals quickly built its lead back up to 24-18 before winning 25-21.
In set three, Eastern Washington was the team to take leads throughout the stanza, going up 10-6 and sustaining that advantage throughout the rest of the set before prevailing 25-21. It was a close set, however, as neither team went up by more than five. ISU's last lead came at 2-1.
Idaho State then jumped out to a 10-7 advantage in the fourth set, but the Eagles quickly turned the tables with a 13-4 run to go up 20-14 on its way to a 25-17 win to force a deciding fifth set.
In that final stanza, the teams played a set that was the closest of the evening, as the teams were tied at 10, 11, 12 and 13 before Eastern scored the final two points of the evening to claim a 15-13 win.
Defensively, four Eagles contributed 14+ digs, led by JaNae Mortensen's 27. That sum is not only the highest of her career, but is the most for any Eagle since Mandy Daniels tallied 34 in a 3-1 win over Sacramento State on Nov. 21, 2008.
"JaNae started off rough tonight, but came back and finished well," Kydd said.
Also, Jacque Brown had 18 digs, Hayley Hills contributed 16 and Ashley Hamilton tallied 14, a career high for the senior setter.
Hamilton also tallied 55 assists, by far her highest total of the year (second is 37 assists in a 3-1 win over Montana on Sept. 18) and the most she has had since she had 55 in that four-set win over Sacramento State a year ago. She was also an offensive threat tonight, hitting .500 in the contest (8-2-12).
"Once Ashley realized what was available and working for us, she took advantage of that and got the job done," Kydd said.
Hills had 20 kills to push her career total to 1,205, just 12 shy of the third-highest total in school history (Kellie Glaus had 1,217 from 1992-95). Sara Todorovich had 11 putaways and hit .375 (11-2-24), while Chenoa Coviare also had double-digit kills with 10 tonight. Brown played well offensively, as well, as she hit at a .292 clip (9-2-24).
The Eagles (7-5), the defending regular-season champions, improved to 3-0 in league play and currently share first place with 3-0 Northern Colorado.
Eastern Washington will next play Weber State at 6 p.m. Pacific Time on Saturday (Sept. 26). The Wildcats had a surprise 27-25, 16-25, 25-16, 16-25, 15-9 win over defending Big Sky Tournament champion Portland State to improve to 2-11 on the season, 1-2 in league play.