Behind a complete team effort, Eastern snaps season-long losing streak in first of three home matches this week
It was a magical Monday night inside Reese Court. After 22-consecutive losses, the Eastern Washington University volleyball team earned its first victory of the 2012 season, sweeping Sac State, 3-0 (29-27, 25-18, 25-22) in a Big Sky Conference matchup in Cheney, Wash.
With the win, Eastern (1-22, 1-11 Big Sky) snapped a school-record 26-match losing streak that had dated back to Nov. 5, 2011. The Eagles lost the last four matches of the 2011 campaign before dropping the first 22 of this season. The Hornets fall to 7-15 on the year and 3-9 in Big Sky play.
The 2012 season got off to a rocky start for EWU, with an unexpected coaching change and a rash of injuries to several key players. But behind the leadership of interim head coach Lisa Westlake, the Eagles persevered to finally add that first 'W' to their record.
"I am so proud of them," said Westlake. "In our pregame meeting tonight, we talked about everybody taking care of their business, and not worrying about anybody else. Tonight, we did that. There has been so much going on this season, we were always worried about thirty different things, instead of just ourselves. But we knew if everyone went out and did their job, we could get it done. It was a total team effort. Our serving was tough, our passing was nails and our defense was great. That's what happens in volleyball. It is such a momentum sport."
Eastern quickly seized that momentum on Monday, as it jumped out to a 12-6 lead in the first set behind three-consecutive kills from senior Cora Kellerman and an ace by freshman Allison Doerpinghaus. But Sac State refused to surrender, and scored 16 of the next 24 points to take a dangerous 22-20 lead.
Westlake called a timeout to refocus her squad, and coming out of the break, Kellerman hammered another kill for a timely sideout. There were six more ties and four lead changes before Kellerman rattled off her 10th kill of the set to give EWU a 28-27 edge. A tough serve from Doerpinghaus led to an errant set by the Hornets, and EWU celebrated their first first-set victory of the season, 29-27.
The second set proved to be equally nerve-racking with 11 ties and six lead changes. But with the score knotted at 16, Eastern went on a 7-1 run, sparked by a vehement block from Doerpinghaus and sophomore Kelsey Julian.
"Allison went in on a mission to block balls," said Westlake. "We knew that was how she could add value to this team. But she was blocking so well tonight, and was so pumped, that her offense became a threat as well."
Doerpinghaus started the match in place of an injured Talia Fermantez, who twisted her ankle in Eastern's previous outing at Portland State. Fermantez was leading the team this conference season in kills, blocks and hitting percentage.
"We were worried about losing Talia's offense," said Westlake. "But Allison stepped in and did a really nice job."
With a 23-17 advantage in the second set, Eastern gave up just one more point before freshman Allie Schumacher put it away with a back-to-back kill and service ace.
After falling behind 7-6 in the third set, Eastern scored six unanswered points to take a 12-7 lead, which it did not relinquish the rest of the way. Doerpinghaus had four kills and four blocks in the final set, while Kellerman and redshirt-freshman Kellen Barfield added three kills apiece.
The Hornets did save four match points before Eastern was able to calm its nerves and score the final point for a hard-fought 25-22 victory.
As a team, Eastern recorded a .203 attack percentage - only the second time in the Big Sky season EWU has hit above .200. The Eagles had 47 kills compared to 38 for the Hornets.
Along with its superior offense, EWU led defensively with 11 blocks and 66 digs. Eastern also had five service aces, compared to just one for Sac State. The Hornets also gave up seven points on service errors.
Kellerman led EWU with 15 kills and 17 digs, marking her sixth double-double of the season. Ten of Kellerman's 15 kills came in the critical first set.
"As a senior, Cora really rose to the occasion," said Westlake. "She made a statement by hitting that well in the first set. It was like a domino effect, and everybody else just caught the wave."
Doerpinghaus finished with 10 total blocks - the most in a single match by any Eagle in the 2012 season. She also had eight kills with zero errors on 14 attempts for an impressive .571 attack percentage. The Palo Alto, Calif., native also added three digs, one assist and one ace.
Schumacher eclipsed double-digit kills for the sixth time this year with 11. She also contributed six digs, one block and one ace.
Senior setter Laney Brown had a stellar night with a season-high five blocks and three kills, to go along with 33 assists and seven digs.
"Laney ran the middle immediately, which told the other team we were a threat in the middle," said Westlake. "That opens up our outside, and the whole offense starts clicking from there."
Barfield had seven kills on the night, including the very first point the match and the very last.
Senior Shelby Puckett and junior Celeste Crosby made a big impact from the back row, as the two upperclassmen combined for 31 digs and eight assists. Puckett also had two service aces, while Crosby added one of her own.
Eastern will look to keep the magic alive when it takes on Montana on Thursday (Oct. 25) at 7 p.m. at Reese Court. The Eagles will play its third match at home this week when it hosts Montana State on Saturday (Oct. 27).