Eagles Prepare to Face Bengals and Wildcats in Third-Straight Weekend on the Road

In the midst of a five-match losing streak, Eastern hoping it can right the ship against two opponents it has already defeated this season


Embarking on the second half of the 2011 Big Sky season, the Eastern Washington University volleyball team is looking for fresh start.

This weekend, the Eagles will be in search of their first win in more than three weeks when they play at Idaho State and Weber State. Eastern will first take on the Bengals on Friday (Oct. 21) at 6 p.m. Pacific time in Pocatello, Idaho. The team then heads to Ogden, Utah to play last-place Weber State on Saturday (Oct. 22), also at 6 p.m.

When EWU played these same two teams during the first week of the Big Sky season, the Eags came away with two victories. Eastern swept WSU, 3-0, and then outlasted the Bengals in a five-set thriller the following night.

Following those wins, the Eagles went out on the road and beat Montana and Montana State, both by a score of 3-2. But since then, Eastern has suffered four-straight conference losses, and the two most recent were 3-0 decisions.

Idaho State has had quite the opposite run of luck in its last few outings. The Bengals will enter this weekend on a three-match winning streak, which includes a surprising 3-2 upset of current league leader, Northern Colorado.

The Bengals are currently tied for third in the Big Sky standings at 5-3. They are one of four teams in the league to also have a winning overall record at 11-8.

Idaho State's junior outside hitter Breanne Van Every was recently tabbed as the Big Sky Player of the Week. Van Every averaged 3.67 kills per set on a .274 attack percentage, and had 19 digs to lead ISU to back-to-back road wins at NAU and UNC. Van Every is leading the Bengals on the season with a 3.37 kills per set average, which ranks third overall in the Big Sky.

The Bengals also boast the third-best libero in the conference in Kylee Searle, who averages 4.57 digs per set.

Eastern Washington leads the all-time series with ISU, 38-29. Eastern also enjoys a slight 15-14 edge in matches played in Pocatello.

In the 2010 meeting at Reed Gym, Eastern tallied 16.5 total team blocks and had four players record double-digit kills en route to a 3-1 victory. The Eagles have actually won six-straight matches against Idaho State.

Like the Bengals, Weber State is also coming off a positive weekend that saw the team earn its first victory of the 2011 season. The Wildcats swept Northern Arizona on the road, 25-22, 25-17, 25-21.

Weber State still remains in last place in the conference standings at 1-7. However, that record should not fool EWU, as the Wildcats had an even worse record last year when they upset Eastern at Swenson Gym, 3-2.

In that dreadful 2010 meeting in Ogden, Eastern had built a two-sets-to-none lead on the 0-8 Wildcats, but with support of a home crowd, Weber State fought back for a 3-2 victory.

The Wildcats are led this season by junior outside hitter Bethany Wray, who ranks second in the conference in kills at 3.43 per set. Weber State's Ashley Orr is also second in the conference in blocks, averaging 1.08 per set.

Eagle Volleyball News & Notes

Niemeier Doubles-Up - Sophomore setter Lindsay Niemeier (Spokane, Wash.) has registered a conference-leading 12 double-doubles this season. Prior to EWU's match at Portland State on Oct. 15, Niemeier had had registered an assist/dig double-double in seven-consecutive matches, which was another conference-leading streak. Niemeier had a season-high 42 assists against Southern Utah on Sept. 10, and tallied a career-high 20 digs against Idaho on Oct. 5.

Petroni has 30 or More x Four - Senior libero Lindsey Petroni (Spokane, Wash.) tallied 33 digs in Eastern's 3-2 win at Montana on Sept. 24. Those 33 pickups 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 three players in EWU history to have at least four 30+ dig performances in a career.

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 19 matches of the 2011 season, which includes 10 starts. She is averaging 1.39 kills and a team-leading 1.07 blocks per set. She has posted double-digit kills in three matches, including a career-high 12 at Montana on Sept. 24. She has had five or more blocks in five of Eastern's last eight outings. Her counterpart on the court, freshman Talia Fermantez (Honolulu, Hawaii), contributes 1.50 kills per set and 0.77 blocks. Fermantez has been especially strong in conference play, averaging 1.74 kills and 0.84 blocks per set. She has had two double-digit kill outings, including a career-high a 13 on a .310 hitting percentage against Montana on Sept. 24. Besides its two freshmen middles, the Eagles have also started a rookie on the outside in 18 of 19 matches thus far in the season. Kelsey Julian (Kennewick, Wash.) averages 0.94 kills per set and 0.63 blocks. She posted a career-high seven kills and six blocks against UNLV on Sept. 10.

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 now third in the league with a 1.18 aces per set average. Eastern also owns the very best single-match serving performance of the year among Big Sky teams with its 11 aces against Montana State on Sept. 24. Eastern also owns the top individual mark, as sophomore setter Lindsay Niemeier (Spokane, Wash.) tallied a conference-leading five aces against Northern Colorado on Sept. 30. As a team, the Eagles have had five or more aces in eight matches already this year, which is as many as they had in the entire 2010 campaign.

If Statistics Tell You Anything ... In league-only statistics, Eastern Washington ranks among the top four Big Sky teams in six of seven categories. After the first half of the Big Sky season, Eastern is second in assists (1.45/set), third in digs (16.79/set), and fourth in kills (12.73/set), assists (11.97/set), blocks (2.29/set) and hitting percentage (.194). Hopefully, as the season continues, 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 14 of 19 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 10 contests, and have only had less than eight total team blocks in three matches.  EWU is currently the No.4 blocking team in the Big Sky, averaging 2.38 blocks per set, which also ranks in the top 70 nationally. Eastern's freshman middle blocker, Amanda Brown (Hacienda Heights, Calif.), averages 1.07 blocks per set to rank among the top 100 in the nation.

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 eight five-set matches already this season, and has prevailed in six of the eight, which includes three-in-a-row in the first two weeks of conference play. In three of its six five-set victories, Eastern has held its opponent to less than 10 points in the decisive fifth set.

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 13 of 19 matches this season, including a season and career-high 22 against Boise State on Aug. 31. On the year, Puckett's 3.07 kills per set average ranks sixth in the conference and among the top 250 in the nation. Puckett also averages 0.80 blocks and 0.26 aces per set, for a points per set average of 3.71 - which is fourth in the conference and among the top 200 for all Division I players in 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.

VanderWel's Senior Season Off to Blazing Start - After battling with injuries throughout much of her career, senior Amy VanderWel (Woodinville, Wash.) is finally at the top of her game. VanderWel started the first 13 matches of the season for EWU, and has seen time in all 19. She has tallied double-digit digs in nine different outings, including a career-high 29 in Eastern's five-set victory against Idaho State (Sept. 17). She currently ranks eighth among defensive specialists in the Big Sky, averaging 3.17 digs per set.

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.

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 117-22 home record during that time span, for an impressive winning percentage of 84.2 when playing at Reese Court.

Smart Cookies - 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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