Kellerman and Petroni Lead Eagles to Thrilling 3-2 Victory Against Griz

Kellerman registers career-high 25 kills, as Eastern wins 16th-straight at Reese Court versus rival Montana

For the third time in as many meetings, the Eastern Washington University volleyball team outlasted the Montana Grizzlies in five nail-biting sets. With the 3-2 (22-25, 25-20, 25-20, 14-25, 15-8) victory on Friday (Oct. 28) in Cheney, Wash., the Eagles effectively swept the regular-season series with Montana, while also earning their 16th-straight win over the Griz at Reese Court.

Eastern (11-11, 7-4 Big Sky) remains in fourth place in the Big Sky standings - one game back from league leaders Portland State and Northern Colorado. The Grizzlies (8-11, 5-6 Big Sky) are tied with Idaho State for sixth place in the conference race.

Three Eagles notched double-doubles in the match, while senior libero Lindsey Petroni registered the fifth 30+ dig outing of her career with a game-high 30 pickups.

"If Lindsey has a chance at the ball, she is going to run it down," said EWU head coach Miles Kydd. "With her, it's as much about attitude and work ethic as anything else. She might not be the smoothest player sometimes, but she gets after it."

On the other side of the ball, junior captain Cora Kellerman turned in the third-best offensive performance of any player in the Big Sky this season with a career-high 25 kills on .333 hitting. She committed only four errors in 63 total swings. Kellerman also contributed 11 digs in the five-set match.

"Cora did a great job of taking what was available," said Kydd. "She has a great cross-body line shot that she doesn't use very often, but was hammering tonight. She is player that is capable of taking over matches. Our setters also were also smart enough to continue giving her the ball. It's important in a match like this to feed the hot hitter."

Eastern's sophomore setter Lindsay Niemeier had 32 assists and 17 digs for her 13 double-double of the year, which leads the conference. Junior Laney Brown was just two digs shy of her own double-double as she finished with 22 assists and eight digs.

The first three sets of Friday's match featured a combined 23 ties and 11 lead changes. In the second set, Eastern was trailing 16-14 when freshman Talia Fermantez slammed one down the middle to a sideout. Niemeier then stepped behind the line and served six-straight points to put the Eags up 20-16. Freshman Kelsey Julian and senior Chenoa Rossi-Childress teamed up for back-to-back blocks to then propel EWU to a 25-20 victory.

The third set had a similar rhythm, as Eastern was down 15-12 midway through the set. But a kill by junior Shelby Puckett sparked an 8-2 run for the home team. The Grizzlies managed to pull back to within one at 20-19, but three straight Eagle kills followed by an ace from sophomore Ashley Wright on set point gave Eastern another 25-20 decision.

Despite back-to-back wins in the second and third, Eastern stumbled in the fourth set, recording a .048 attack percentage. Montana rolled to a 25-14 win to force the eighth rubber game of the season for EWU.

In the decisive fifth, Eastern rattled off 11 kills with just one error on 22 attempts. The Grizzlies, on the other hand, managed to get just four kills, and had four errors on 20 swings. Despite the lopsided statistics, the set was still quite tense.

Eastern had built an 8-4 lead when the teams switched sides of the court, as is customary half-way through a fifth set. But following the switch, Montana scored the next three in a row to make it 8-7. Eastern reclaimed the serve off a Kellerman kill, and then three more Eagle kills followed by back-to-back hitting errors on the Griz allowed Eastern to take the set and match.

Puckett was the third Eagle to earn a double-double, as she finished with 14 kills and 17 digs. Julian tied her season-high with seven kills, and also contributed three blocks and two digs.

In the middle, Fermantez and Rossi-Childress combined for 14 kills and six blocks.

Now with three wins in a row, the Eagles will look to keep the streak alive when they play Montana State Saturday (Oct. 29) at 7 p.m. on Reese Court.

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