A quartet of rivals will pay a visit to the Eastern campus over the next two weeks, starting with Idaho and Sacramento State
Coming off a 2-0 road trip, the Eastern Washington University volleyball team will bring a 4-0 Big Sky Conference mark back to Cheney for a four-match home stand, two league contests and a pair of non-conference matches.
This week, Eastern will play Idaho on Wednesday (Sept. 30) and Sacramento State on Friday (Oct. 2). Both matches will have a 7 p.m. first serve. The Eagles will then take on Gonzaga and Portland State the following week.
Over the weekend, the Eagles rallied from a 2-0 deficit for a 3-2 win for the first time since Aug. 31, 2007, in a 17-25, 21-25, 25-21, 25-17, 15-13 defeat of Idaho State. Eastern Washington then swept Weber State 25-16, 25-21, 26-24 to move into first place in the Big Sky. The only other undefeated league team is Northern Colorado (3-0).
Eastern is 8-5 overall with three of its five setbacks coming to top-notch opposition, as each of those matches were on the road and versus teams that are currently ranked in the top 18. A fourth loss came to a squad that is "also receiving votes" in Saint Mary's.
Idaho is off to a 5-8 start and is 1-1 in Western Athletic Conference play. The Vandals went 1-1 on a WAC road trip over the weekend, beating San Jose State 3-1 and falling to No. 4 Hawai'i 3-0.
This will mark the sixth straight season the Vandals have met the Eagles. Idaho has taken the last two match-ups, both in Moscow and both by 3-0 scores. The last time the Vandals made the 75-mile trip north, in 2006, Eastern prevailed by a 3-1 score, which was the ninth consecutive win for the Eagles in the series between the former Big Sky rivals.
Sacramento State will bring a 9-7 mark into Friday's match, 1-1 in Big Sky play. In its first two league matches of the campaign, played over the weekend in California's capital city, Sacramento State defeated Northern Arizona 3-1 and fell to Northern Colorado 3-0.
The Eagles swept the season series with the Hornets last year, with a 3-2 home win and a 3-1 away victory. Prior to that, Sacramento State had claimed 10 consecutive match-ups.
Hamilton Named Big Sky Player of the Week
Senior setter Ashley Hamilton was an all-around offensive force over the weekend.
She helped lead the team to its best hitting percentage of the season (and second-best by any Big Sky team so far in 2009), .390, in a 3-0 sweep of Weber State after setting the team to a dramatic comeback from 2-0 down at Idaho State in a 3-2 win.
Individually, the Alpine, Utah, native averaged 12.25 assists per set, but also was an intimidating offensive threat herself, as she hit at a .600 clip in the two road matches (14-2-20). Defensively, she was solid, averaging 2.50 digs and 0.62 blocks per set in the two contests.
In the five-set win in Pocatello, Hamilton had 55 assists, her highest total of the season and the fifth-highest total by a Big Sky player in 2009. Hamilton hit .500 (8-2-12) that night. She also did the job defensively, as her 14 digs that night was a career high for the setter.
Hamilton had 43 assists in the sweep of the Wildcats, which is a very impressive number for a match just three sets long. It actually comes out to a higher assists-per-set ratio then she achieved the night before (14.33 versus 11.00). She also hit at a .750 clip (6-0-8) in that WSU match.
The award is the first for Hamilton.
Hills Up to Third in Kills Chart, Wins POW
Senior outside hitter Hayley Hills keeps climbing Eastern Washington's all-time kills chart. With 34 over the weekend (4.25 per set), she pushed her career total to 1,219, good for third place on the illustrious list.
Next, in second place, is Janelle Ruen, who had 1,268 from 1999-2002. Kim Exner (1995-98) holds the school mark of 1,860.
Hills is also currently second in school history in kills per set, embedded into that slot with a 3.92 average. Holding the record is Exner (4.43), while 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.
Following her impressive performance this past weekend in wins over Montana and Montana State, Hills was named the Big Sky Conference Player of the Week.
Those two matches, she averaged 4.71 kills and 3.14 digs per set.
Eagles Rank Nationally in Average Attendance
The Eastern Washington Eagles have earned the attention of the greater Spokane area and it has shown, as the team is averaging 1,186 fans per contest, an average that ranks the squad 31st in the country.
In fact, EWU rank fourth among all West Coast teams (i.e. those located within the Pacific Time Zone), trailing just Stanford (2,085, 12th), Long Beach State (1,454, 19th) and Oregon (1,191, 30th).
The highlight of the home schedule so far came on Sept. 18, when 1,311 saw the Eagles knock off Montana in four sets. That crowd was the largest for a home contest since Nov. 11, 2006, in a match also against Montana.
In fact, the Eagles have ranked in the top 40 in attendance in 11 of the past 12 years.
Comeback From 2-0 Down
The Eastern Washington Eagles went into the locker rooms in their match at Idaho State on Friday (Sept. 25) down 25-17, 25-21, but rallied to complete an impressive 3-2 victory with 25-21, 25-17, 15-13 set victories.
The rally from 2-0 down was the first for head coach Miles Kydd since he took over the Eagles at the beginning of the 2008 campaign and was the initial one for the EWU program since a 25-30, 23-30, 30-18, 30-19, 15-10 victory over Colgate on Aug. 31, 2007.
Busy First Month for Eagles
The Eastern Washington Eagles played some pretty impressive competition the first three weeks of the season, including three teams currently ranked in the top 18, each on its home courts.
To conclude the pre-conference portion of the schedule, the Eagles played well in a trip to the Bay Area with its two defeats coming to a pair of teams who are either nationally ranked or receiving votes for the top-25 poll.
Following a couple tight sets in a 25-13, 25-23, 29-27 road loss to Saint Mary's, who is now 8-3 and receiving votes in the AVCA Coaches Top 25 Poll, the Eagles rallied to beat San Jose State 21-25, 25-22, 26-24, 25-20.
Eastern then took 19-12 and 18-12 leads in the first and third sets, respectively, before falling on the road to California, currently ranked ninth, by 25-22, 25-19, 25-20 scores.
The previous weekend, EWU defeated opponents from Conference USA (Houston) and the Western Athletic Conference (Nevada) by 3-1 scores before battling No. 18 Arizona (11-0), the host of the Marriott University Park Wildcat Classic, in an exciting four-set affair that the undefeated Wildcats took 3-1.
The Eagles opened their season on Aug. 28 with a 3-1 defeat of Missouri State. The Bears had played in the 2008 NCAA Tournament and are receiving top-25 votes, as well. Eastern's two losses that weekend came to two other teams that played in the NCAAs a year ago, the seventh-ranked Ducks and San Francisco.
Coviare Named to All-Oregon Classic Team
Chenoa Coviare had an outstanding opening weekend for the Eagles and was rewarded for her efforts with All-Oregon Classic accolades.
In the three matches played from Aug. 28-29, she hit .365 (25-6-52) and contributed 1.20 blocks and 0.70 digs per set.
Coviare helped Eastern to a 3-1 win over Missouri State and tough-fought losses to No. 12 Oregon and San Francisco.
Coviare and Hamilton Named All-Tourney
For the second weekend in a row, Chenoa Coviare was named to an all-tournament team, this time at the Marriott University Park Wildcat Classic. She was joined on the squad by Ashley Hamilton.
Coviare had 2.25 kills and 0.83 blocks per set in Eastern's three matches at the tournament.
Arizona transfer Hamilton played well in her old stomping grounds, averaging 6.58 assists per set and hitting at a .296 clip (12-4-27).
The talented duo helped the Eagles to an impressive 2-1 showing at the tournament, which included 3-1 wins over Houston and Nevada and a good showing in a 3-1 loss to host Arizona, who is 6-0 and just entered the AVCA Coaches Top 25 Poll at No. 25.
Coviare and Hills Earn Tourney Honors
After helping the Eagles to a second-place showing at the Molten/Hilton Garden Inn Classic, Chenoa Coviare and Hayley Hills earned All-Tournament honors.
In the two matches, a 3-1 win over San Jose State and a 3-0 loss to host and 13th-ranked California, Coviare hit at a .343 clip (19-7-35) to go with 1.43 blocks per set.
Hills had a team-high 3.00 kills per set. She also contributed 2.14 digs per set as well as 0.29 blocks per set.
Against SJSU, Coviare had 12 kills and hit .455 (14-4-22), while Hills contributed 14 digs.
Versus the Golden Bears, Hills tallied 13 kills and hit .290 (13-4-31), while Coviare had three blocks.
Eagles Beat 2008 NCAA Participant
The Eagles started off their 2009 campaign on a high note, outlasting Missouri State 25-22, 25-20, 17-25, 25-21 at the Oregon Classic on Aug. 28.
The win was especially impressive, as the Bears played in the 2008 NCAA Tournament and are receiving votes in the AVCA Coaches Top 25 Preseason Poll.
Eastern Washington controlled the first two sets and then had to battle back from significant deficits in the third and fourth sets.
The Eagles did so successfully in set four, rallying from 5-0 and 10-3 deficits and then pulling away from a 21-21 tie with the final four points of the contest.
Big Sky Championship in Cheney
After claiming the Big Sky Conference's regular-season title in 2008, the Eagles earned the right to play host to the 2009 Tournament.
The semifinals will take place at 5 and 7 p.m. on Nov. 27, while the title contest will take place at 7 the following evening.
The winner of that match will earn the league's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament, which starts the following weekend.
Big Sky Preseason Poll
In the Big Sky Coaches Preseason Poll, defending Big Sky Tournament champion Portland State, who finished just behind the Eagles in the regular-season standings a year ago, was picked first. The Vikings were followed, in order, by Eastern Washington, Northern Colorado, Montana, Weber State, Sacramento State, Northern Arizona, Idaho State and Montana State.