Lumberjacks Dash Eastern’s Hopes for Big Sky Tournament Bid

Eags record season high 18 blocks, including career-high 10 by Rossi-Childress, but can't overcome late runs by NAU

With a narrow 3-2 (22-25, 24-26, 26-28, 25-20, 15-11) loss at Northern Arizona on Friday (Nov. 13), the Eastern Washington University volleyball team dropped out of Big Sky tournament contention for the 2010 season. The Eagles fell to 6-9 in league play, which puts the hopes for a bid to the tourney just out of reach. This marks the first time since 1995 that the Eagles have not advanced to postseason play, as Eastern had finished in the top three of the regular-season race for 14-straight years.

Despite the emotional loss, the Eagles went down fighting, as they forced five sets, two of which required extra points. The team recorded a season-high 18 blocks, and had 63 kills and only 27 errors for a .242 attack percentage on the night. The marathon match in Flagstaff was the seventh five-set affair of the Big Sky season and the eighth overall for the 2010 Eags.

Eastern won the first and third sets of the match, including a hard-fought 28-26 victory in the third, but the team could not withstand two extensive runs by the Lumberjacks in the fourth and fifth sets.

"It wasn't a matter of character or will," said EWU head coach Miles Kydd. "The girls wanted it badly, and they played with a lot of heart, but there was a 20 minutes stretch where the roof caved in, and we couldn't find our way out."

Eastern had a 10-4 lead early in the fourth set, but the team began to unravel after committing three-consecutive hitting errors. Kydd called a timeout to try and stop the bleeding, but the struggles continued after the break, as NAU's Lauren Campbell served up three aces in a row to sustain the momentum for the home team. Eastern finally earned a sideout at 17-12, but the 13-point swing haunted the Eagles the rest of the way, as NAU eventually took the set 25-20.

The fifth frame had a similar storyline, as the Eagles enjoyed an early advantage at 6-5, but a kill by NAU's Lexi Sullivan sparked a 7-1 run for the Lumberjacks. Eastern scored the next three points to pull within two at 13-11, but then handed NAU the set and match with back-to-back errors on offense.

Junior Chenoa Rossi-Childress had an outstanding night the Eagles, as she earned her first-career double-double with 12 kills and 10 blocks. She also had a career-high four service aces.

"Chenoa is a great athlete, and we always knew she was capable of having that kind of an impact," said Kydd. "She wasn't able to play as much early in the season, being behind two senior middles, but she has grown a lot this year, and her performance tonight is certainly encouraging for next season."

Seniors Alysha Cook and Allison Reinstein also turned in top performances, as both players hit above .320 on the night. Cook had 13 kills and only four errors in her 28 attempts, while Reinstein added 11 kills with just three errors on 15 swings. Both players were also relentless at the net, as Cook had seven blocks and Reinstein added six.  

Sophomore Shelby Puckett was also efficient on the offensive end, hitting at a .381 clip (11-3-21). Sophomore setter Laney Brown had 31 assists, five digs, two kills and one service ace, while her counterpart, Lindsay Niemeier, finished with 23 assists, four digs and also, one ace.

Junior Lindsey Petroni and senior Jacque Brown once again led the Eagles from the back row, as Petroni picked up 17 digs and Brown collected 14.

NAU's Sullivan led all hitters in the match with 21 kills. Three other Lumberjacks eclipsed double digits, as Campbell had 16 kills, and Niki Small and Chelsea Cheeley chipped in 12 and 11, respectively. NAU also earned 12 total points from behind the service line, six of which came in the fourth set.

The Eagles will return to Washington for its final two matches of the season, as it takes on Gonzaga on Wednesday (Nov. 17) in Spokane and then wraps up conference play on Saturday (Nov. 20) against the Sacramento State Hornets in Cheney. Saturday's game will be senior night at Reese Court.

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