Eagles Gear Up for Final Outing Before Big Sky Play Begins

Eastern to face future Big Sky member Southern Utah this weekend at UNLV Invitational


The Eastern Washington University volleyball team has one more tournament in store before it opens its Big Sky Conference season in less than two weeks. This final installment is the UNLV Invitational at the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas, Nev.

Eastern will open the two-day event with a match against Cal State Northridge on Friday (Sept. 9) at 4:30 p.m. The Eagles will then have a double-header on Saturday (Sept. 10), as it takes on host UNLV at 12:30 p.m., followed by a first-ever matchup with Southern Utah at 4:30.

After a win against Presbyterian and two losses to Cal State Fullerton and Arizona last weekend at the Wildcat Classic, the Eagles enter this event with a 3-4 overall record. But the team is quite optimistic about its chances for a flawless weekend in the desert.

"We feel we've had some pretty good experiences over the past two weeks that have prepared us for these three matches ahead," said EWU head coach Miles Kydd. "We are not going to Vegas to just win one set here and there. We are going in to compete for a tournament title."

Cal State Northridge has earned a 4-3 record in the early goings of 2011, which includes two victories over Big Sky schools. The Matadors defeated Weber State, 3-2, on Aug. 27, and then took down Sac State in four sets on Sept. 3.

In those two matches combined, CSUN's sophomore outside hitter Mahina Haina tallied 45 kills on a .435 attack percentage. She was recently named the Big West Player of the Week after leading the Matadors to a perfect 3-0 at the Sacramento State Invitational, where she averaged 4.10 kills per set.

"Northridge will be a great test for us," said Kydd. "Their offense definitely depends on Mahina's ability to be successful, so we obviously need to do our best to contain her. But as we saw last weekend against Fullerton, all of those California state schools present a challenge because of the talent they have on their rosters."

Since Eastern became a member of Division I in 1983, EWU and CSUN have met 13 times, but the most recent of those meetings was exactly decade ago in Eugene, Ore. The Eagles defeated Northridge in five sets on Sept. 8, 2001. Eastern leads the all-time series with the Matadors, 10-3.

Eastern's second opponent on the weekend, UNLV, comes in with a 3-3 overall record. The Rebels lost their first three matches of 2011, which includes a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Northern Colorado. But UNLV rebounded well, winning the Texas Tech Invitational with three-straight victories over Central Arkansas, Morehead State and Northwestern State.

Saturday will be the third meeting between EWU and UNLV. The series is split 1-1, but the Rebels did sweep Eastern in the most recent meeting in 2008.

Following the battle with the home team, Eastern will have its first of many matches with future Big Sky member Southern Utah. The Thunderbirds will be an official member of the BSC starting July 1, 2012.

Southern Utah is 1-6 this season, which includes a 3-0 loss to Boise State - a team Eastern defeated just recently in five sets in its home opener on Aug. 31. The Thunderbirds also lost a match this season to another familiar foe of EWU - the Montana Grizzlies. SUU's battle with UM was a tight one, as it took the Grizzlies five sets to close it out.

The Thunderbirds are led by junior outside hitter Analaine Mailoto, who averages 3.42 kills per set. Junior middle blocker Cashaana Renfro has also proved to be a force at the net, averaging 1.72 kills on a .238 percentage and 0.92 blocks.

Eagle Volleyball News & Notes

When it Comes to Blocking, Eagles are Never Behind - In its first seven games of the 2011 season, Eastern has either out-blocked or had the exact same blocks as its opponent. Eastern has never trailed in that category. In five of the first seven games, the Eagles had at least six more team blocks than its opponent, including three matches with eight or more. EWU is currently the No. 1 blocking team in the Big Sky, averaging 2.71 per set.

Rossi-Childress Named to Wildcat Classic All-Tourney Team - Senior Chenoa Rossi-Childress 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 and Cora Kellerman 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.

Rossi-Childress Leading Big Sky Blockers - Senior Chenoa Rossi-Childress has tallied 36 blocks in Eastern's first seven matches of 2011, which makes her the top blocker in the Big Sky Conference with a 1.38 blocks per set average. Her season-high so far was eight blocks against Santa Clara on Aug. 27, but she has had at least three in every outing of 2011. Rossi-Chidlress' career game high for blocks is 10, which she set last season at Northern Arizona.

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 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 117-20 home record during that time span, for an impressive winning percentage of 85.4 when playing at Reese Court.

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 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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