Eagles Come All The Way Back To Beat Sacramento State In Big Sky Opener

Eastern won the final three sets Thursday, Sept. 19, to complete a thrilling comeback

Facing an early 0-2 hole, the Eastern Washington women's volleyball team came all the way back to defeat visiting Sacramento State in a five-set thriller Thursday, Sept. 19.

The Eagles improve to 4-8 and 1-0 in the Big Sky with the win while the Hornets fall to 5-7 and 0-1 in league play. Set scores for the match were: 15-25, 17-25, 25-18, 25-20, 15-12.

"I thought it was a heartfelt win for our group," head coach Wade Benson said. "It showed we were able to use our tough preseason matches to our advantage. We faced this exact same scenario at San Jose State, and, knowing the importance of this match, we were able to come through."

Sophomore Allie Schumacher led the way with a 24-kill, 11-dig performance, her third double-double of the season. Junior Melissa Waelter added 14 kills and eight digs to go along with a team-best three service aces.

Senior Lindsay Niemeier notched a season high with 44 assists, adding eight digs and four blocks. Sophomore Ryann Ensrud tallied 22 digs, just three shy of her career high. Junior Talia Fermantez recorded a season-best seven blocks.

The two teams played even through the first part of the opening set with neither team leading by more than one. A service ace from Sloan Lovett gave the visitors a 10-8 lead before an attack error from sophomore Allison Doerpinghaus extended that advantage to three, forcing EWU to call timeout. The Eagles pulled back to within two, 16-14, on an attack error, but Sacramento State reeled off five straight points to take a commanding 21-14 lead, not looking back en route to taking the first set.

CSUS opened the second set strong, taking a 5-2 lead on an attack error from Fermantez. Eastern battled back to tie the match at 10-10, but Sacramento State answered by winning seven of the next nine points to take a 17-12 lead. EWU would get no closer as the Hornets claimed the second frame to take what appeared to be a commanding 2-0 advantage.

The Eagles used four consecutive attack errors from the Hornets to go up 7-4 early in the third set, causing the visitors to call timeout. Three straight kills from CSUS tied the match at 7-7, but EWU rallied to take a 14-10 lead, punctuated by back-to-back kills from freshman Kylie Curtis. Sacramento State crawled back to within three, 17-14, but the next five points went the Eagles' way as the hosts took a 22-14 lead late in the frame. CSUS would get no closer than five points the rest of the way as Eastern took the third set.

The fourth set was a back-and-forth affair throughout, with the Hornets eager to end the match while the Eagles looked to take it to a fifth frame. Tied 7-7, a service error and two kills from Schumacher gave Eastern a 10-7 lead, but CSUS responded to tie the score at 10-10 with three straight points. The Hornets would go up two, 15-13, on an attack error from Curtis, but EWU refused to cave, answering with a run that put them up 17-16 thanks to a kill from Fermantez. Sacramento State would grab a slim 18-17 lead after winning the next two points, but the Eagles turned it on from there, taking the next six points to open up a five-point advantage late in the frame. A kill from Lovett brought the visitors back to within four, 23-19, but kills from Schumacher and Doerpinghaus ensured there would be a decisive fifth set.

The Eagles jumped out to a 3-1 lead early in the final frame, but the Hornets answered with back-to-back points to tie the match at 3-3. Showing a new level of determination, Eastern upped their play even further, reeling off a 6-0 run to open up a 9-3 lead midway through the set behind kills from Curtis, Waelter and Niemeier. Not to be outdone, Sacramento State answered with their own 6-0 run, knotting the match at 9-9 and forcing Eastern to call timeout. Kills from Waelter and Schumacher, coupled with a ballhandling error from the Hornets, put the hosts back up three, 12-9. CSUS would pull back to within one, 12-11, on a kill from Stanley, but three huge kills from Schumacher gave EWU the set and the match.

Stanley led Sacramento State with 15 kills. Katie April paced the Hornets with 18 digs while Hannah Hettinga tallied 46 assists.

Eastern registered a season-high 22 blocks on the night.

The Eagles are back on the road Monday, Sept. 23, taking on Portland State in a Big Sky counter. First serve is set for 7 p.m.

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