After sweeping the Bobcats and Grizzlies in 2011, Eastern looks to draw from that experience as it aims for first win of 2012
What's Ahead for the Eags
Although still working out some kinks from the many unexpected changes that occurred early in the 2012 season, the Eastern Washington University volleyball team is eager to get back on the court. Looking for a breakthrough and that first W of the season, Eastern heads to the Motnanas for its next Big Sky action. The Eagles take on Montana State on Thursday (Sept. 20) at Shroyer Gym in Bozeman, Mont., before heading to Missoula on Saturday (Sept. 22) to face the Grizzlies.
Due to the rash of injuries, Eastern has had to juggle a variety of lineups this season. But the Eagles hope to establish a consistent rotation this weekend, as most of its upperclassmen are finally back in the saddle. With exception of junior setter Lindsay Niemeier, who tore her ACL in the first match of the year, Eastern has three healthy seniors and two juniors returned to the lineup.
Quarterbacking the offense is senior setter Laney Brown. On the outside, her three main beneficiaries include fellow seniors Cora Kellerman and Shelby Puckett, as well as junior Ashley Wright - who have all been on the court together for three years.
After spending more than a year and a half sidelined with a knee injury, junior Celeste Crosby has also recovered and is ready to resume her role as one of Eastern’s top defensive specialists.
Although these upperclassmen will be looked upon to guide the team this weekend against the Montanas, and throughout the Big Sky season, Eastern’s younger members are also capable, as many have already seen significant playing time in 2012.
In Eastern’s first two conference matches, sophomore Talia Fermantez averaged 3.33 kills per set - the most on the team. Redshirt-freshman Kellen Barfield leads the Eagles in blocking (1.03/set), while true freshman Ryann Ensrud has carried much of the load in the back row, averaging 3.36 digs per set, which is among the top 10 in the league.
vs. Montana State
- It is safe to say, Eastern Washington has dominated Montana State in recent past. Over the last decade, the Eagles have won 20 of 23 meetings, with nine of those victories being 3-0 sweeps. Eastern won both contests in 2011, including a close 3-2 decision in Bozeman, and a more lopsided 3-1 victory in Cheney, in which EWU held the Bobcats to just 42 points combined in the final three sets
- Eastern owns a 44-17 advantage in the all-time series against MSU. But the record when playing in Bozeman is much closer at 17-12, in favor of the Eagles. All three of Eastern’s losses over the last decade came on the road, which does include a 3-1 defeat in 2010, when the Bobcats edged EWU, 18-25, 25-23, 25-21, 25-23.
- The Grizzlies are just one of three Big Sky opponents that Eastern does not have a winning record against since becoming a member of Division I athletics. Montana narrowly leads the all-time series, 33-31, but Eastern has won the last three matchups - although all three of those victories came after five nail-biting sets. In fact, six of the last 10 meetings between these two teams have gone to five sets.
- When playing in Missoula, UM holds a 19-12 advantage. A look back at the recent series on the road though shows Eastern winning every match from 2000-07, as well as the 2009 and 2011 meetings. Over the last decade, Eastern has only lost twice in Missoula in 2008 and 2010.
Scouting the Bobcats
- Not even halfway through its season, Montana State has already recorded more wins in 2012 than it had in the entire 2011 campaign. Under first-year head coach Kyle Weindel, the Bobcats are 7-3 overall and 1-1 in league play.
- In its 2012 conference opener, MSU upset new Big Sky member North Dakota on its home court, which is a team that had won three-straight Great West Conference tournament titles and two of the last three regular-season crowns before moving to the Big Sky. In its second league matchup, the Bobcats lost to Northern Colorado, but not before they took a set off the preseason favorite in Greeley.
- The Bobcats are led by junior outside hitter Sarah Horton, who averages 3.85 kills per set. Other players to watch include senior outside hitter Macy Page, who averages 3.15 kills per set on a .266 attack percentage, and senior middle blocker Taylar Barney, who contributes 1.73 kills and 1.05 blocks.
Scouting the Grizzlies
- Like Eastern, Montana has had a less than stellar start to the 2012 season. The Grizzlies are 2-9 on the year, with their only wins coming against Sacred Heart and Towson. Montana had the same road trip as MSU to open the 2012 Big Sky season, but lost to UNC, 3-1, before getting swept by UND, 3-0.
- The Grizzlies did return all six starters from its 2011 squad that went 11-13 overall and 8-8 in league play. The team is led on offense by junior Kayla Reno and its only senior, Paige Branstetter, both of whom average just under three kills per set. Junior Brooke Bray ranks second in the Big Sky in blocking, averaging 1.35 per set. She is also among the top eight in hitting percentage.