Eastern has five-match winning streak snapped by league-leading Bears
After a big win against Northern Arizona on Thursday, the Eastern Washington University volleyball team faltered in the second stop of its final road trip of the Big Sky season, as the Eagles dropped a 3-0 (25-17, 25-12, 25-23) decision to Northern Colorado on Saturday (Nov. 5) at the Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion in Greeley, Colo.
With the win, UNC remains atop the Big Sky standings at 10-3, while Eastern drops to third now with a 9-5 conference record.
The four teams with the best league records at the end of the regular-season advance to the Big Sky Tournament, held Nov. 25-26 in Portland, Ore. Eastern has two matches remaining in its regular season against Portland State and Sacramento State - the two teams that sandwich Eastern in the league standings at No. 2 and No. 4, respectively. The Eagles host Portland State (14-12, 10-4) next Saturday (Nov. 12) at 7 p.m. at Reese Court.
The Bears looked fairly dominant in the first two sets in Greeley, as they held EWU to a .081 hitting percentage. The third set was much closer though, as evidenced by 15 ties and six lead changes.
After trading points back and forth for the first half of the set, Northern Colorado put together a small run to take a 17-14 advantage. Eastern head coach Miles Kydd called a timeout to try and curtail the sudden shift in momentum.
Coming out of the break, EWU scored five-consecutive points to take a slim 19-17 lead. The Eagles then extended that lead to 22-20, but a kill by UNC's sophomore outside hitter Alyssa Wilson, followed by a service ace by senior Breanna Williams gave the Bears a late surge. The home team was then able to earn set point at 24-22.
The Eagles came up with a big block to save the first set point, but on the ensuing play, UNC freshman Tambre Haddock slammed one into an open hole on Eastern's side of the court to solidify the 3-0 sweep.
In the first meeting of the year between the two teams, Northern Colorado's Kelley Arnold went off for 28 kills on a .521 clip, while also adding six blocks. Tonight in Greeley, the Eagles did a much better job of containing Arnold, as she finished with only nine kills and three blocks. But the Bears found offense in other ways, posting a .283 team attack percentage on the night, which included a combined .382 in sets three and four. The Bears also held a 59-48 advantage in digs.
Eastern is 3-8 in the 2011 season when its opponent hits above .200. When the Eagles hit above .200, they are 8-0.
Eastern recorded just 34 kills with 19 errors in 120 attempts on Saturday. Only one Eagle recorded double-digit kills, and that was junior Shelby Puckett, who went down late in the third set with an ankle injury. She finished her match with 11 kills on .296 hitting.
Sophomore setter Lindsay Niemeier tallied 14 assists and six digs, and also had all three of EWU's service aces. She leads the team in that category with 33 on the season, and is among the top five in the Big Sky.