September 14, 2012

Hornets Sting Eastern in Big Sky Season Opener, 3-0

Eagles relinquish big lead in second set, and go on to lose first league matchup to Sac State

Struggles continue for the Eastern Washington University volleyball team, which dropped its 12th-straight match of the season on Thursday (Sept. 13) at Colberg Court in Sacramento, Calif. The Hornets of Sacramento State upended EWU in the 2012 Big Sky season opener, 3-0 (25-18, 28-26, 25-18).

Eastern (0-12, 0-1 Big Sky) was chasing for much of the first set, but it never really felt out of reach thanks to a few timely put aways for the red and white. A kill by sophomore Talia Fermantez, followed immediately by a Hornet unforced error brought the Eagles within one point at 16-15. But Sac State scored the next four points in a row to quickly reclaim the momentum. The Hornets ended up closing out the opening frame on a 9-3 run. Sac State hit a .371 clip in the set with 16 kills and just three errors.

After dropping that first set, 25-18, Eastern was determined to even the score before intermission. It certainly looked like that would happen when the Eags jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead in the second. Four Eastern Washington kills, coupled with three unforced errors by the Hornets allowed EWU to extend that lead to 13-4 before the home team found a spark.

Sac State scored eight of the next nine points to pull within two at 14-12. But Eastern earned a timely sideout on a service error by Sac State senior Janelle Currey, and the Eags scored three points in a row to go back up by five at 17-12.

Unfortunately, the Hornets would not go away. The two teams traded the next few points, but a couple of costly offensive errors by EWU allowed Sacramento State to tie if up for the first time in the set at 22-22. The Eagles twice served for set point, but with the home crowd behind them, Sac State was able to ward off both.

The Hornets finally put it away with a kill by junior Kayla Beal, followed by another Eagle unforced error.

“We looked great in spurts during that set, but we gave up too many little runs and didn’t take care of business when we should have,” said EWU head coach Lisa Westlake. “Sac State was making a lot of unforced errors to start, but we knew they would eventually pick up their game. In the end, I think we ended up with the same number of errors.”

After recording a .371 attack percentage in the first set, the Hornets only managed to hit a .132 clip in the second. But Eastern was no better, as it had just 13 kills with eight errors on 42 attempts for a .119 efficiency, which turned out to be its worst set of the night.

“We play Portland State at home on Monday, and we have a lot to clean up in two practices,” said Westlake. “We didn’t pass well enough tonight and didn’t serve as tough as we had been. Those two things alone can be the difference.

“Even though we haven’t won a game, we are still pushing and still believing,” added Westlake. "But we need to go into the gym knowing what it’ll take to get better, and then concentrate on executing that in the games.”

Sophomore Kelsey Julian led the Eagles in their Big Sky debut with 10 kills on .269 hitting. She also contributed two blocks. Senior Cora Kellerman had eight kills and a season-high 18 digs. Freshman libero Ryann Ensrud also eclipsed double-digit digs, as she tallied 14.

Senior setter Laney Brown started just her third match of the year since returning from injury, finishing with 28 assists, five digs and two kills.

Eastern will host Portland State on Monday (Sept. 17) in the 2012 home opener. First serve from Reese Court is scheduled for 7 p.m. Pacific.

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