Back on the Road, Eagles Look for More Wins Against Northern Arizona and Southern Utah

After a couple close battles at home, Eastern eager for rematch against Jacks and T-Birds

Upcoming Matches/Coverage

Eastern at Northern Arizona
Thursday, Nov. 1 | 7:30 p.m. PT
Rolle Activity Center | Flagstaff, Ariz.
TV: Televised live on Fox Sports Arizona and Fox College Sports (FCS)
Match Notes | Live Stats | Live Webcast 

Eastern at Southern Utah
Saturday, Nov. 3 | 6 p.m. PT
Centrum Arena | Ogden, Utah
Match Notes | Live Stats | Live Video


After a rewarding three-game home stand that saw the Eastern Washington University volleyball team win its first two matches of the year, the Eagles will head back out on the road to face the No. 3 team in league, Northern Arizona, and the No. 7 squad, Southern Utah.

Eastern will tangle with NAU (19-4, 11-3 Big Sky) on Thursday (Nov. 1) at 7:30 p.m. in a televised game live on Fox Sports Arizona and Fox College Sports.

The Eagles then travel to Cedar City, Utah, to take on Southern Utah (9-17, 5-9) on Saturday (Nov. 3) at 6 p.m. Pacific time.

The first time EWU played these two teams was in the midst of its 22-match losing streak. But both of those matches in Cheney were closely-contested affairs that left the Eagles hungry for a vengeance.

Eastern took NAU to four sets, two of which required extra innings, and battled the T-Birds in a nail-biting five setter. Now, with the confidence from two 3-0 sweeps, Eastern is poised for a pair of competitive rematches.

“Getting a couple wins has evened out the playing field for us in terms of confidence and belief in ourselves,” said EWU head coach Lisa Westlake. “The last time we played these teams, we didn’t have that. Now, I feel like we have a little bit of an edge.”

“The girls also understand that these are teams we match up well against,” added Westlake. “We played them tough last time, which does factor in when preparing ourselves both mentally and in the gym. I think it helps the team believe that much more. But what we’ll need in order to beat a very talented and composed NAU team is for everybody to play a little bit better. If we have four people playing well and two people hitting negative or passing bad, it’s going to hurt us. Everyone on the floor has to play well.”

In the two wins last week against Sac State and Montana, the Eagles hit a combined .244 clip. Prior to those two matches, Eastern had hit above .200 only three times in the entire 2012 season. Against the Grizzlies, EWU recorded a season-high .292 attack percentage, while holding UM to .109 hitting - the worst offensive output by an EWU opponent this season. Eastern also had four more aces than its opponent in both matches, while only giving up three points of their own on serve-reception errors. In the previous 11 conference matches, EWU had averaged nearly four and a half errors per match.

Scouting Report

 

Northern Arizona

• Northern Arizona is one of just three teams in the league to already reach the 10-win mark in conference play. The Lumberjacks have a Big Sky tally of 11-3, while boasting the best overall record at 19-4. And unfortunately for EWU, the Jacks are flawless at home in the 2012 campaign at 6-0.

• The Lumberjacks do not have one particular all-star, but rather an effective group of offensive weapons. NAU has four different players averaging at least two and a half kills per set, including middle blockers Sydney Kemper and Payton Bock, who are both hitting around. 340 on the season to rank among the top five players in the league.

• NAU has a couple other impactful players in setter Kalee Kirby, who is second in the league in assists, averaging 11.13 per set, and senior libero Anna Gott, who averages 5.38 digs per set to also rank second. Both of those players are in the top 50 in the nation in their respective statistical categories.

• As a team, NAU has had success in the Big Sky because of an efficient offense, and equally effective defense. As a team, the Jacks have the second-best hitting percentage in league-only statistics at .242, while also boasting the second-best opponent hitting percentage at .158. Interestingly, they are one of the top three teams in both blocking and digging. Normally, a team that excels in one defensive category lacks in the other, but NAU averages almost three blocks per set and nearly 16 digs.

Southern Utah

• The Thunderbirds come into the match having lost seven of their last eight contests, with four of those being 3-0 sweeps. In fact, SUU has only reached 20 points in just one of the last six sets played against conference opponents.

• Unlike NAU, Southern Utah relies primarily on outside hitter Analaine Mailoto for its offensive production. The 5-10 senior averages 3.88 kills per set to rank third in league-only statistics. She has received more than double the sets of any other player on the team this season.

• As a whole, Southern Utah’s biggest strength is its team blocking efforts. The T-Birds rank third in the conference and 46th nationally, averaging 2.92 blocks per set. Senior middle blocker Cashanna Renfro, who stands at 6-foot-2, averages 1.36 blocks per set, as well as 2.30 kills.

Eagle News & Notes

 

Eagles Break Through! After 22-consecutive losses, including 11-straight in conference play, the Eagles finally celebrated their first victory of the 2012 season on Oct. 22 against Sacramento State, and then followed that with another win on Oct. 25 against Montana. Eastern swept both teams, 3-0. The first win against Sac State actually 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.

First Set Leads to First Win: Not only did Eastern record its first victory of the 2012 season last week (Oct. 22) against Sac State, but the Eagles did it after winning their first first-set of the year. In 22 matches, EWU had not won a single opening set. But against the Hornets, Eastern battled through nine ties and six lead changes for a crucial 29-27 triumph. Senior Cora Kellerman was a big part of that first first-set win, recording 10 of her 15 kills with only one error in 17 attempts. She also had six digs in the opening set.

Doerpinghaus Delivers in Eagle Win: Making the first Big Sky Conference start of her career, freshman middle blocker Allison Doerpinghaus had a major impact in Eastern’s first win of the season. The Palo Alto, Calif., native earned the starting nod in place of an injured Talia Fermantez, who went down in the previous match at Portland State. Doerpinghaus certainly made the most of her opportunity. She led the team with 10 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, while also contributing three digs, one assist and one ace.

Efficient Fermantez: Although customary for the position, sophomore middle hitter Talia Fermantez has proved to be far and away Eastern’s most consistent hitter in the 2012 season. In 14 conference games, the Honolulu, Hawaii native is hitting .289 with 104 kills and just 31 errors on 253 attempts. That attack percentage ranks among the top 10 in the Big Sky. Overall on the season, Fermantez is the only Eagle with an offensive efficiency above .200. She has had six double-digit kill outings, and has also had at least two blocks in 21 of 23 appearances.

Schumacher Shines as a Starter: Since becoming a consistent member of EWU’s starting lineup, freshman outside hitter Allie Schumacher has averaged 2.69 kills per set and 1.90 digs. She has had seven double-digit kill efforts in the last 12 outings, and has had at least one block in nine Big Sky contests. She registered her first-career double-double against North Dakota (Oct. 4) with 13 kills and 10 digs, and had another in Eastern’s 3-0 sweep of Montana (Oct. 25) with 10 kills and 12 digs.

Kelsey Comes on Strong: Sophomore Kelsey Julian had double-digit kills in three-consecutive outings for EWU. Coming off the bench, she had a career night against Southern Utah (Sept. 27), leading the Eagles in the narrow 3-2 loss. She posted a career-high 13 kills on a sizzling .550 attack percentage. In five sets, she made just two offensive errors - the most efficient performance of any outside hitter on the court that night. She also had five digs, two blocks and a service ace. The next night against Northern Arizona (Sept. 28), she had 11 kills, and in her next appearance versus defending regular-season and tournament champion Northern Colorado, she led the team with 10 putaways.

Eagles Experience “Revolving Door” Rotation: Within the first month of competition in the 2012 season, the Eastern Washington volleyball team had five of its nine returning letterwinners on the injured reserve list, including both its veteran setters and its only defensive player with any collegiate experience. Senior setter Laney Brown and junior DS Celeste Crosby have since returned to the lineup, but in the midst of all the injuries, head coach Lisa Westlake had to experiment with a variety of rotations. All 16 players on the 2012 roster have played in at least three sets for EWU, while 13 different players have appeared in the starting lineup at least once. Senior Shelby Puckett, a two-time All-Big Sky outside hitter, was recently moved to defensive specialist to help with Eastern’s need for a consistent server and passer. Due to the season-ending injury of junior setter Lindsay Niemeier, junior Ashley Wright has had to fill in as a reserve setter, and blocker in the front row for the Eagles. As a redshirt-freshman and sophomore, Wright had been a starting outside hitter for the Eags, with zero experience as a setter.

Early-Season Setting Woes: Although said to be almost impossible, it seems lightning did in fact strike twice on the Eastern Washington University volleyball team. For the past two seasons, Eastern  has used a 6-2 offense with setters Laney Brown and Lindsay Niemeier. Two weeks before the 2012 season began, Brown suffered an injury to her big toe, which required surgery and had a projected 6-12 week recovery. Luckily though, Eastern had two-year starter Niemeier ready to run offense for EWU. But in the 2012 season-opener in Laramie, Wyo., the junior setter went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee. She had surgery on the knee Sept. 12, but is not likely to return in the 2012 season. Eastern played the first eight matches and 26 sets of the season without an experienced setter. Brown was able to return to the starting lineup during the Iowa State Challenge Sept. 7-8, and has been running a 5-1 offense ever since, with assistance from junior Ashley Wright in the front row.

Talia Fermantez Named to Gonzaga Invite All-Tournament Team: Sophomore Talia Fermantez was recognized for her strong performance both offensively and defensively at the Gonzaga Invitational (Aug. 31-Sept. 1). The 6-1 middle blocker was one of six elite athletes named to the All-Tournament team following the two-day event in Spokane, Wash. Fermantez, a native of Honolulu, Hawaii, averaged 3.20 kills per set and 1.20 blocks in Eastern’s three matches against UC Riverside, South Dakota State and host-Gonzaga. She registered 32 total kills on the weekend, with just eight errors on 74 attempts for an impressive .324 attack percentage. She also had 12 total blocks, which was three times as many as any other player on the team. Fermantez scored a total of 39 points for her team at the tourney. In Eastern’s narrow 3-1 loss to tournament-champion South Dakota State, Fermantez posted a career-high 16 kills - three more than her previous career high.

Smart Cookies: In 2009 and 2010, 11 members of the Eagle squad were named to the BSC All-Academic team and 10 Eagles were honored in 2011 - that is the most of any volleyball team in the conference all three years.

Eastern’s Tradition of Excellence: For 16 consecutive years, Eastern Washington has had at least one player on the All-Big Sky First Team, and since becoming an official member of the Big Sky Conference, the Eagles have had five different players named Big Sky MVP. Eastern has finished in the top four of the Big Sky regular-season standings and advanced to the semifinals of the BSC tourney 15 of the last 16 years. The Eagles have reached the championship match 10 times since becoming a member of Division I athletics, and have advanced to the NCAA Championship four times.

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