@EWUVolleyball Hits The Road For First Matches Of 2013

Matchday Information

at No. 8 Oregon vs. Ohio vs. Bryant at Seattle
Friday, Aug. 30 | 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31 | 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31 | 4:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 2 | 6 p.m.
Matthew Knight Arena | Eugene, Ore. Matthew Knight Arena | Eugene, Ore. Matthew Knight Arena | Eugene, Ore. Connolly Center | Seattle, Wash.
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The Eastern Washington women's volleyball teams opens its 2013 schedule on the road this week, taking on a trio of opponents at the Oregon Classic in Eugene, Ore., this Friday and Saturday, Aug. 30-31, before traveling to Seattle, Wash., to face Seattle on Monday, Sept. 2. The Eagles open their stay in Oregon against the host and eighth-ranked Ducks on Friday at 7 p.m. before squaring off with Ohio and Bryant on Saturday at 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., respectively. EWU concludes its opening week at Seattle, taking on the Redhawks on Monday at 6 p.m.

Eastern welcomes back four starters and eight letter winners from last year's squad that suffered a down season uncharacteristic of EWU's winning history. Also back in Cheney is head coach Wade Benson, returning to the sidelines after leading the Eagles from 2000-06. During his previous tenure, Eastern won three Big Sky titles and became the only team in league history to advance past the opening round of the NCAA Championship, defeating Oregon State in the first round back in 2001. EWU won at least 20 matches in his final six seasons at the helm and advanced to the championship match of the Big Sky Tournament every year.

Senior setter Lindsay Niemeier and middle blocker Ashley Wright will captain this year's team as the two most experienced players on the roster. Niemeier suffered a season-ending injury in Eastern's first match last season but was the team's assists leader as a junior in 2011. Wright played all over the court for the Eagles last year, averaging 1.15 digs per set, 0.88 kills per set and 0.49 blocks per set.

Also back are junior middle blocker Talia Fermantez and sophomore outside hitter Kellen Barfield, both of whom played at least 90 sets a season ago. Fermantez led the team with an average of 0.91 blocks per set and finished third in kills, averaging 2.32 kills per set. Barfield ranked second on the team in blocks per set with an average of 0.84, giving Eastern a potent defensive presence at the net. Sophomore outside hitter Allie Schumacher, who ranked second on the team with an average of 2.63 kills per set, returns after a stellar freshman campaign that saw her set a school record for kills in a match with 35 against Northern Arizona on Nov. 1.

Joining Eastern's returnees is an accomplished trio of transfers who look prepared to contribute from the outset. Junior outside hitter Melissa Waelter joins the Eagles after two years at South Alabama, where she started 49 matches for the Jaguars. She racked up 506 kills, 406 digs, 60 blocks and 51 service aces in two years at USA, ranking eighth in the Sun Belt in kills per set (3.08) in 2012. Junior outside hitter Stanka Panic and junior setter Milica Nisavic come to Cheney after stand-out careers at Casper College in Casper, Wyo. The duo led Casper College to a regional championship in 2012 after placing third in 2011. They both earned NJCAA All-Region IX honors both seasons and were twice selected to the Region IX All-Tournament Team. Panic was an All-America pick in 2012 while Nisavic was named Region IX Setter of the Year as a sophomore.

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