Eagles Outlast Boise State in 2011 Home Opener

Eastern evens season record at 2-2 with dramatic five-set victory over Broncos

The Eastern Washington University volleyball team now has two wins on its 2011 record, and both have come in the most dramatic fashion. Eastern topped Boise State in a five-set thriller (25-17, 23-25, 25-19, 22-25, 15-11) on Wednesday (Aug. 31) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.

Eastern also beat Washington State in five sets during its season-opening tournament last weekend in Seattle, Wash.

Junior Shelby Puckett tallied a career-high 22 kills on a stellar .400 hitting percentage to lead the Eagle offense on Wednesday. She also had a career-high six blocks, to go along with 13 digs.

Junior-captain Cora Kellerman was not far behind, as she recorded 21 kills with only five errors in 50 attempts. Kellerman turned in the best defensive night of her career with a team-high 20 digs.

Eastern's sophomore setter Lindsay Niemeier earned her second double-double of the season with 27 assists and 12 digs. Her counterpart, junior Laney Brown, also had a double-double of 25 assists and a career-high 11 digs.

Eastern won the first set handily, but the Broncos turned up the heat in the second, nearly doubling its total kills from set one. The Eagles built a 14-11 lead midway into the second set, but coming out of a timeout, BSU's Liz Harden slammed one of her game-high 27 kills, which sparked a 7-3 run for the Broncos. Eastern tied the game at 19-19, 20-20 and again at 23-23, but back-to-back kills for BSU gave the visitors a hard-fought 25-23 victory.

Boise State carried that momentum into the third set, jumping out to an early 11-5 lead. But Eastern responded in a big way, as Puckett then served seven-straight points to put the Eagles ahead by one at 12-11. EWU utilized a few more small runs to eventually take the third set, 25-19.

The fourth set was a back-and-forth battle, but Boise State managed to come up with the narrow 25-22 victory. The fifth set was also a nail-biter, as neither team led by more than two points for a majority of the set. With the score knotted at 11, Puckett rattled off back-to-back kills, forcing BSU head coach Shawn Garus to call a timeout. Coming out of the break, Brown aced her serve to give Eastern a 14-11 edge, and on match point, the Broncos allowed a free ball to drop right inside the line.

"It was a tougher match than we wanted it to be, but it's great for us to win when it's a struggle," said EWU head coach Miles Kydd. "In the past when we were struggling, we couldn't find a way to win. But tonight, we showed a lot of guts and fought hard for the win."

The Eagles out-blocked Boise State 12.5-4 in the match. Puckett and senior Chenoa Rossi-Childress led the team with six apiece, while freshman Amanda Brown added five, and sophomore Ashley Wright chipped in four.

"We spend a lot of time blocking in practice," said Kydd. "It helps our team a lot when that shows up in a game. Our blocking is probably the reason we beat Washington State last weekend."

With an even 2-2 record, Eastern will now hit the road for a trio of non-conference matches at the Wildcat Classic in Tucson, Ariz. EWU plays Cal State Fullerton and Presbyterian on Friday (Sept. 2), followed by a matchup with Arizona on Saturday (Sept. 3).

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