Uncharacteristic of its play thus far in the season, the Eastern Washington women's volleyball team committed too many errors against visiting Montana Saturday, Sept. 28, falling to the Grizzlies in four sets in a Big Sky match at Reese Court.
The Eagles fall to 5-10 (2-2 Big Sky) on the year while Montana snaps its losing streak and improves to 5-8 (2-2 BSC) with the win. Set scores for the match were: 22-25, 20-25, 25-19, 20-25.
EWU committed 31 attack errors and nine service errors on the night, struggling to find any consistency. Sophomore Allie Schumacher led the way with 16 kills on 39 swings, committing eight errors. Junior Melissa Waelter put away 10 kills while senior Ashley Wright had the best hitting percentage of the night, notching seven kills on 15 swings with just one error.
Junior Talia Fermantez registered a team-best four blocks, including a pair of solo stops.
Montana raced out to an 8-3 lead early in the first set, but consecutive kills from Wright, followed by a kill from Niemeier and a service ace, brought Eastern to within three, 16-13. A block from Fermantez and Niemeier cut the Grizzlies' lead to one, 17-16, but the visitors put away the next three points to regain a comfortable four-point advantage. EWU would get within two points of Montana three times down the stretch, but UM answered each time, getting a kill from Brooke Bray to take the second set.
Eastern looked like its old self at the start of the second frame, taking an 8-4 lead on a service ace from junior Stanka Panic. Two attack errors and a serving error allowed Montana to tie the match at 10-10, but the Eagles responded with three straight points to go back up three midway through the set. The Grizzlies took their first lead, 20-19, on a block from Kelsey Schile and Natalie Jones, then added a service ace to take a two-point lead. Schumacher put away a pass from Sarff to get Eastern back to within one, 21-20, but the visitors scored the final four points of the set to go up 2-0 heading into the break.
Neither team was able to gain much separation in the opening moments of the third set, but three consecutive errors from EWU gifted Montana a 13-10 lead. The Eagles rallied to take a 14-13 lead on a kill from Curtis before going up three, 18-15, on an attack error by the Grizzlies. UM pulled back to within one, 18-17, on a ballhandling error from Niemeier, but Eastern went on a 5-1 run that proved too much for the visitors to overcome, extending the match to a fourth set.
Schumacher opened the fourth set with a kill to give EWU an early lead, but an error from Curtis tied the score, and the Eagles would play behind the rest of the way. Eastern tied the score at 6-6, 7-7 and 8-8, but a four-point swing from the Grizzlies gave them a 12-8 lead, prompting head coach Wade Benson to call timeout. Waelter cut Montana's lead to two, 17-15, on a pass from Ensrud, but Montana would regain a comfortable five-point lead, 23-18, on a block from Kayla Reno and Bray. A service error and a ball handling error brought Eastern to within three, 23-20, but the Griz put away the final two points to claim the set and match.
The Eagles hit .167 for the match, hitting .083 in the firs two sets. Eastern responded with a .324 hitting percentage in its third-set win, but swung at a .171 clip in the fourth set. Montana hit .254, committing less than half the errors that EWU made.
Eastern will take its first airplane trip of the young Big Sky season next weekend, traveling to Southern Utah and Northern Arizona for league counters. The Eagles take on the Thunderbirds on Thursday, Oct. 3, at 6 p.m. before facing the Lumberjacks on Saturday at 7 p.m.