Eastern's offense thrives in much-needed win at Idaho State
This time, the Eastern Washington University volleyball team was on the favorable side of a 3-0 sweep.
On Friday (Oct. 21) in Pocatello, Idaho, Eastern took down the Bengals of Idaho State, 3-0 (25-21, 25-20, 25-21) to snap a five-match losing streak, and solidify a sweep of the regular-season series with ISU for the thrid-straight year.
Eastern and Idaho State are now tied for fourth in the Big Sky standings with a matching 5-4 league record.
Prior to Friday's contest, the Eagles had dropped three-straight 3-0 matches, two of which were in conference. But against the Bengals, Eastern was finally able to find its stride, recording a .279 attack percentage, to go along with 44 digs and three service aces.
"We had a good week of practice, and you could just see a little extra bounce in our step during warm-ups," said EWU head coach Miles Kydd. "Idaho State is a team we match up well against, and our players were able to take advantage of what they were giving us."
Eastern had a slight edge for most of the first set, but the Bengals did manage to put together a small run late, which tied the score at 17-17, forcing Kydd to call a timeout. Coming out of the break, EWU scored three-straight points to take a 20-17 lead. Both teams rattled off a few more kills, but a couple of costly errors by Idaho State allowed EWU to take it, 25-21.
In the second set, Eastern was the team behind the eight ball. After the Eags scored the first three points, Idaho State came right back and built a 15-10 advantage. But a vehement kill by junior captain Cora Kellerman sparked an 11-2 run for the red and white. Then, just as she had done in the first frame, junior setter Laney Brown fed the middle on set point, and freshman Talia Fermantez came up with the winning kill.
"Our setters did a good job of distributing the ball," said Kydd. "But we can't set the middle or run any of our plays unless we get a good pass, and tonight, we were able to execute in those areas."
Eastern faced a similar situation in the third set, as ISU earned a dangerous 18-14 advantage. But the Eagles scored eight of the next 10 points to take a 22-19 lead. The Eagle run started with back-to-back kills by Kellerman and Fermantez. Kellerman then tallied five more kills to propel Eastern to the 25-21 victory in the final stanza.
The La Conner, Wash., native finished the night with a match-high 13 kills on a .321 clip. She also had six digs and one ace.
"I think the difference tonight was when the game got close and there were chances for us to freak out, we didn't," said Kydd. "We hung in there."
Fermantez posted a .316 attack percentage of nine kills and only three errors in 19 total attempts. Junior Shelby Puckett registered eight kills, seven digs and one ace, while senior Chenoa Rossi-Childress, sophomore Ashley Wright and freshman Kelsey Julian all chipped in four kills apiece.
Eastern's setters combined for 43 assists, as Brown picked up 19 and sophomore Lindsay Niemeier finished with 17.
Senior libero Lindsey Petroni had her seventh double-digit dig outing of the year, as she posted a team-leading 14 in the match.
The Eagles will now try to make it two-in-a-row, as they head to Ogden, Utah, on Saturday (Oct. 22) to take on Weber State at 6 p.m. Pacific time.
"Sometimes, when you're in a slump like we were, it feels like you're never going to win again," added Kydd. "But in our conference, everyone has a chance every night. Last weekend, Idaho State went on the road and beat two top teams in Northern Colorado and Northern Arizona. Then we come in here and sweep. You just have to believe that you always have a chance. If we can come into every match with that mindset, and are prepared to battle, we're probably going to see a positive result."