Eagles Prepare for Crucial Weekend on the Road

As the Big Sky tournament battle heats up, Eastern hits the road looking for redemption against Lumberjacks and Bears


Upcoming Games/Coverage

EWU at Northern Arizona
Thursday, Nov. 3 - 7 p.m. PDT
Rolle Activity Center - Flagstaff, Ariz.
TV: FCS-Pacific/NAU-TV/Ch. 4 (Flag.)
Webcast: http://www.bigskytv.org
Live Stats: http://stats.statbroadcast.com/broadcast/?id=2253

EWU at Northern Colorado
Saturday, Nov. 5 - 6 p.m. PDT
Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion - Greeley, Col.
Webcast: http://www.bigskytv.org
Live Stats: http://livestats.prestosports.com/uncbears/wvball/?e=6r9z81fn4l7qikgn

With three weeks remaining in the 2011 Big Sky Conference season, it appears there are five teams battling for a spot in the Big Sky Tournament. Eastern Washington University is one of them. And the other four are the exact four teams EWU will face in the final weeks of the season, starting with Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado this weekend.

The Eagles will travel to Flagstaff on Thursday (Nov. 3) to take on NAU at 7 p.m. in a game televised on Fox College Sports Pacific. Eastern will then head to Greeley for a match against Northern Colorado on Saturday (Nov. 5) at 6 p.m. Pacific time.

The four teams with the best record at the end of the regular season advance to the 2011 Big Sky Conference tournament, held Nov. 25-26 in Portland, Ore. The winner of the BSC tourney earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Women's Volleyball Championship.

The Eagles are currently in third place in the Big Sky standings with an 8-4 league record, which puts them a game and a half ahead of Northern Arizona (6-5) and a half game behind Northern Colorado (8-3).

Portland State is currently atop the standings at 9-3, while Sacramento State is in fourth at 6-4. Idaho State (5-6) and Montana (5-7) still have an outside shot, but it would seem the real viable contenders are Eastern and the four teams that are responsible for its only conference losses of the year.

With exception of the 2010 season, EWU has made 14-straight appearances in the Big Sky tournament, including a championship run in 2001. Before Eastern can get back there though, it will have to take down a couple of teams that upset the Eagles on their home court earlier this season.

In the first meetings of the year, when the Lumberjacks and Bears visited Cheney, both teams escaped with disheartening victories. The Bears topped EWU, 3-1, after junior outside hitter Kelley Arnold went off for 28 kills on a .521 attack percentage, while also adding six blocks. Eastern suffered an even more upsetting loss to Northern Arizona the following night, as the Lumberjacks rallied back from a two-sets-to-none deficit to take the match, 3-2.

Eastern is out for revenge against these two teams, but it won't be an easy task, as both Flagstaff and Greeley have proved to be difficult places for EWU to win in recent years.

In the all-time series with NAU, EWU leads 33-23, but when playing at the Rolle Activity Center in Flagstaff, the Lumberjacks own a 14-11 advantage, which includes the last three in a row. Eastern has not celebrated a win on the road against NAU since Nov. 1, 2007.

The Eagles have dropped two of their last three matches at the Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion in Greeley, including a 3-0 sweep last season. The Bears lead the all-time series, 8-6.

Although this weekend's matches do pose some challenges for EWU, the team will go in with some hard-earned momentum. Eastern is in the midst of a four-match winning streak against BSC opponents. In the last two weeks, EWU has defeated Idaho State and Weber State on the road, and Montana and Montana State at home.

The Lumberjacks are coming off back-to-back victories against MSU and Sacramento State, while the Bears have also won two in a row against Sac State and non-conference foe Seattle.

Eagle Volleyball News & Notes

Kellerman's Career Weekend Leads to Second POW Honor of Season - For the second time this year, outside hitter Cora Kellerman was tabbed as the Big Sky Conference Player of the Week for matches played Oct. 24-30. The junior from La Conner, Wash., led Eastern in two wins against Montana and Montana State, as the Eagles (12-11, 8-4 Big Sky) now sit comfortably in third place in the Big Sky standings. The victories also kept alive two long-standing streaks, as EWU earned its 16th-straight win against the Grizzlies at Reese Court and the 11th-consecutive win at home versus MSU. Kellerman averaged 4.89 kills per set on a stellar .384 attack percentage, and had 28 digs (3.11/set) and four blocks. She scored 46 points for her team in the two matches combined, which was 18 more than the next closest person. In Eastern's thrilling five-set victory against Montana on Friday (Oct. 28), Kellerman posted a career-high 25 kills, and had only four errors on 63 total swings. She had five kills alone in the decisive fifth set, while hitting a .417 clip. She also had 11 digs for her sixth double-double of the season. Kellerman's 25 kills in that match is the third-best offensive performance turned in by any player in the Big Sky this season. The win against the Grizzlies also gave Eastern its first regular-season series sweep of UM since 2007. The following night against Montana State, Kellerman picked up right where she left off on Friday, tallying 19 kills, 17 digs and four blocks. She had just two errors on 36 total attempts for a career-best .472 attack percentage.

Petroni Goes Off Against Griz - In both regular-season matches against Montana, senior libero Lindsey Petroni (Spokane, Wash.) has tallied 30 or more digs. In the most recent meeting on Oct. 28, she had exactly 30 in EWU's 3-2 victory in Cheney. In the road match in Missoula, Petroni had 33 digs in another 3-2 win for EWU. Those 33 pickups on Sept. 24 marked the fifth-best defensive effort of any player in the league in the 2011 season, and it tied her career-high mark, as Petroni also had 33 against Idaho on Sept. 3, 2009. The Spokane, Wash., native is one of just two players in EWU history to have at least five 30+ dig performances in a career.

Three-Deep - After being sidelined with a knee injury for the first three weeks of the Big Sky season, senior middle blocker Chenoa Rossi-Childress is back on the court, giving Eastern three dangerous threats in the middle. Besides its senior leader, the Eagles have a pair of talented freshmen in Amanda Brown and Talia Fermantez, who both gained a lot of invaluable experience while Rossi-Childress was on the bench. Brown averages 1.37 kills per set and 1.01 blocks, while Fermantez boasts a 1.67 kills per set average to go along with 0.79 blocks. And in the 46 sets she has played this season, Rossi-Childress has averaged 1.52 kills and 1.17 blocks.

Niemeier Doubles-Up - Sophomore setter Lindsay Niemeier (Spokane, Wash.) has registered a conference-leading 14 double-doubles this season. At one point this season, Niemeier had registered an assist/dig double-double in seven-consecutive matches, which was another conference-leading streak. Niemeier tallied a season-high 42 assists against Southern Utah on Sept. 10, and tallied a season and career-high 20 digs against Idaho on Oct. 5.

Superior Serving - In the 2010 campaign, Eastern Washington ranked eighth in the conference in service aces. With a 0.96 aces per set average last season, the Eags were one of only two teams in the Big Sky to tally less than one ace per set. This year, however, Eastern has made serving a priority, and it has definitely paid off. The Eagles are curretnly third in the league with a 1.20 aces per set average. In addition, Eastern had the very best single-match serving performance of the year among Big Sky teams with it tallied 11 aces against Montana State on Sept. 24. Individually, sophomore setter Lindsay Niemeier (Spokane, Wash.) is tied for the top mark in the conference for aces in a single match with her five against Northern Colorado on Sept. 30. Niemeier averages 0.29/set, which is fifth overall in the Big Sky and among the top 230 in the nation. As a team, the Eagles have had five or more aces in nine matches already this year, which is one more than they had in the entire 2010 campaign.

Freshmen Phenoms - This season, Eastern has relied heavily on three talented freshmen. EWU has a pair of freshmen middle blockers who have made a major impact in their first year in red and white. Amanda Brown (Hacienda Heights, Calif.) has played in all 23 matches of the 2011 season, which includes 10 starts. She is averaging 1.37 kills and a team-leading 1.01 blocks per set. She has posted double-digit kills in three matches, including a career-high 12 at Montana on Sept. 24. Her counterpart on the court, freshman Talia Fermantez (Honolulu, Hawaii), contributes 1.67 kills per set on a .279 attack percentage, and 0.79 blocks. Fermantez has been especially strong in conference play, averaging 1.94 kills and 0.85 blocks per set. She had a career night against Montana State (Oct. 29), as she posted 13 kills on a .462 percentage and nine blocks. Besides its two freshmen middles, the Eagles have also started a rookie on the outside in 22 of the 23 matches this season. Kelsey Julian (Kennewick, Wash.) averages 1.01 kills per set and 0.60 blocks. She has twice had a career-high seven kills against UNLV on Sept. 10 and Montana on Oct. 28.

If Statistics Tell You Anything ... In league-only statistics, Eastern ranks among the top four Big Sky teams in six of seven categories. Heading into the final two weeks of the season, Eastern is second in aces (1.39/set), third in kills (13.00/set), assists (12.18/set), digs (17.08/set), hitting percentage (.202) and opponent hitting percentage (.167). As the season winds down, EWU is hopeful these statistics will directly correlate with the actual league standings, because in the Big Sky Conference, only the top four teams advance to the postseason tournament.

Block Party - In 16 of 23 matches this season, Eastern has either out-blocked or had the exact same blocks as its opponent. The Eagles have tallied double-digit blocks in 11 contests, and have only had less than eight total team blocks in five matches. EWU currently ranks in the top 80 nationally in blocking.

Eagles Dangerous in the Marathon Match - Although five-setters are not the ideal way to win a match, it seems to work for the 2011 Eagles. Eastern has played in nine five-set matches already this season, and has prevailed in seven of the nine, which includes four in conference. In four of its seven five-set victories, Eastern has held its opponent to less than 10 points in the decisive fifth set.

Home Court Advantage - The Eastern Washington University volleyball team has placed in the top 40 nationally in average home attendance in 11 of the past 14 years. The high-water mark of 1,641 fans per contest, which ranked 12th nationally, came in 2003. The squad has earned a 119-22 home record during that time span, for an impressive winning percentage of 84.4 when playing at Reese Court.

Nine In a Row for No. 7 - Junior Shelby Puckett (Latah, Wash), who wears #7 for the Eagles, had a nine-consecutive double-digit kill matches from Sept. 9 - Oct. 1. She has tallied double-digit kills in 15 of 23 matches this season, including a season and career-high 22 against Boise State on Aug. 31. On the year, Puckett's 2.98 kills per set average ranks seventh in the conference. She also averages 0.61 blocks and 0.27 aces per set, for a points per set average of 3.60 - which is fifth in the conference and among the top 250 for all Division I players across the nation.

Career-Night for Wright - Sophomore Ashley Wright (Leavenworth, Wash.) turned in the best performance of her career against Montana State on Sept. 23. She posted a career-high 14 kills on a stellar .480 hitting percentage, and had a career-high four service aces to lead Eastern to a thrilling five-set victory over the Bobcats. Wright also had six digs and one block in the match.

Kellerman Lays Claim to Big Sky POW - After helping Eastern capture back-to-back victories at home against Weber State and Idaho State, outside hitter Cora Kellerman (La Conner, Wash.) was selected as the Big Sky Conference Player of the Week. It was the first POW award of Kellerman's career and the first student-athlete from Eastern to be honored in the 2011-12 campaign. In the two matches played over the weekend, Kellerman averaged 3.75 kills per set on a stellar .310 attack percentage. She also averaged 2.00 digs per set and posted a flawless serve percentage with zero service errors on 32 total attempts. Kellerman scored a team-high 33 points for the Eagles in the two matches combined. In Eastern's thrilling five-set victory over Idaho State on Saturday (Sept. 17), Kellerman registered a game-high 18 kills. But even more impressive than the total number was her efficiency in the marathon match, as she had zero errors on 44 total attack attempts. In the 3-0 sweep of Weber State the night before, Kellerman had 12 kills, seven digs and one solo block.

Puckett Honored for Performance in Vegas - Junior Shelby Puckett (Latah, Wash.) became the third Eagle to be honored on an All-Tournament team this season, as she was selected to the UNLV Invitational All-Tourney team. Puckett averaged 3.29 kills and 1.57 digs per set, while also tallying 10 total blocks in Eastern's three matches in Las Vegas, Nev. She also had a team-high five service aces, including three pivotal ones in EWU's dramatic five-set victory over future Big Sky member Southern Utah. She had 17 kills, five digs and three blocks in that match as well. She averaged 4.00 points per set for EWU – the most of any player on the team.

Rossi-Childress Named to Wildcat Classic All-Tourney Team - Senior Chenoa Rossi-Childress (Las Vegas, Nev.) was one of six players named to the Wildcat Classic All-Tournament Team, held Sept. 2-3 in Tucson, Ariz. In the three matches played in Tucson, Ross-Childress tallied 17 kills on a team-high .275 attack percentage. She also led Eastern's blocking efforts with 11 total. She scored 22.5 points for EWU during the weekend.

Eagles Prevail in Early Home Opener - Not since the 2004 season had Eastern played a home match at Reese Court prior to the start of the Big Sky Conference season. This year, the Eagles had the privilege of hosting an early-season match in Cheney, and that little bit of home-court advantage certainly helped the Eags pull through in the clutch. In the 2011 home opener on Aug. 31, the Eagles outlasted Boise State in five exciting sets. The Eags recorded a season-high 12.5 total team blocks, to go along with a season-high 84 digs. Eastern was also sharp on the offensive side of the ball, as it recorded the best attack percentage of the season at .292 (66-17-168).

Puckett and Kellerman's Career Performances Power Eagles in Boise State Win - In Eastern's 2011 home opener versus Boise State, juniors Shelby Puckett (Latah, Wash.) and Cora Kellerman (La Conner, Wash.) were nearly unstoppable on both the offensive and defensive ends. Both players recorded career-high kills, while Kellerman also posted a career-high in digs and attack percentage (of contests where she had at least 10 kills). Puckett rattled off 22 kills with only four errors in 45 attempts (.400), while Kellerman posted 21 kills on a career-high .320 clip. Kellerman also picked up 20 digs, which was the first time in her career the La Conner, Wash., native had 20 or more tallies in two different statistical categories.

Kellerman Earns Eastern's First All-Tourney Honor of 2011 - After leading EWU with 34 total kills and 31 digs in Eastern's opening weekend, junior captain Cora Kellerman (La Conner, Wash.) was named to the 2011 Seattle University Fall Volley All-Tournament Team. Kellerman averaged 3.09 kills per set in the three matches played in Seattle. She led the team to a spectacular five-set victory over rival Washington State with a then-career-high 20 kills and 17 digs. Six of her 20 kills came in the decisive fifth set. Kellerman also recorded a .957 serve percentage, as she served 47 times in the tournament with only two errors.
Eagles Honored for Academic Success - For the second year in a row, the Eastern Washington University volleyball team earned the AVCA Team Academic Award for its superior work in the classroom. To be eligible for the award, teams must maintain at least a 3.00 grade point average during the academic year. With a team GPA of 3.31, the Eagles were one of 92 Division I programs honored for the 2010-11 year. Eastern was also recognized by the Big Sky Conference, as the Eagle volleyball team tied for the highest GPA of any squad, men's or women's, in the Big Sky. In both the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons, the Eagles had 11 members earn BSC All-Academic honors, which was the most for any volleyball squad in the conference both years.

Wright Lays Claim to 2011 Emtman Award - Sophomore Ashley Wright (Leavenworth, Wash.) was selected as the 2011 recipient of the Emtman award - an honor bestowed to one volleyball student-athlete who exhibits a strong work ethic, perseverance, character and a team-first attitude during the spring season. The award is administered by EWU head strength and conditioning coach, Nate Brookreson. Wright, a 2009 graduate of Cascade High School in Leavenworth, Wash., played in 26 of Eastern's 27 matches during the 2010 campaign, including 15 starts as a redshirt-freshman. She averaged 1.37 kills and 0.52 blocks per set. She also registered three double-doubles throughout the year, all of which came in Big Sky Conference play. At the end of the volleyball season, Wright was selected as the Most Improved Player by her teammates. She is the third recipient of the Emtman Award, which was introduced in Miles Kydd's first season as head coach.

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