Eagles Down Thunderbirds In Four Sets

Juniors Kelsey Julian and Melissa Waelter each notched 13 kills for the Eagles Thursday

Cedar City, Utah – Taking some time to warm up, the Eastern Washington women's volleyball team eventually founds its rhythm, downing Southern Utah in four sets Thursday, Oct. 3, in a Big Sky counter at Centum Arena.

The Eagles improve to 6-11 and 3-2 in the Big Sky with the win while SUU falls to 2-13 (1-4 BSC) with the loss. Set scores for the match were: 26-24, 25-21, 25-11, 25-18.

Juniors Kelsey Julian and Melissa Waelter each notched a team-best 13 kills on the night. Julian tied her career high with 13 kills and hit a stellar .345, committing just three errors in 29 swings. Waelter recorded her second double-double of the year, adding 13 digs.

Freshman Chloe Watson added a season-best eight kills in her first career start. She nearly had her first career double-double, finishing with nine digs.

Senior Lindsay Niemeier tallied 35 assists, her third straight match with at least 30 helpers. Sophomore Ryann Ensrud tied her season high with 22 digs while sophomore Allison Doerpinghaus led the team with five blocks.

Down 3-2 early in the first set, Eastern used a 5-1 run to go up four, 8-4, forcing the hosts to call their first timeout of the frame. A block from Doerpinghaus and Julian extended EWU's lead to six, 11-5, but the Thunderbirds used a handful of errors from the Eagles to tie the score at 12-12 midway through the opening set. With the score tied at 19-19, junior Stanka Panic and Niemeier each put away kills to spot Eastern a two-point lead as SUU called its second timeout. A service ace from Niemeier would give the Eagles a three-point lead out of the break, but the Thunderbirds scored the next three points to tie things at 22-22. Eastern would commit four errors down the stretch, gifting the first set to Southern Utah.

Neither team was able to gain much separation in the opening moments of the second set. A service error from SUU gave Eastern a slim 9-8 lead that would quickly become a five-point advantage after a 4-0 run, including two kills from Waelter. After the hosts pulled back to within three, Eastern again opened a five-point lead, 18-13, on a kill from freshman Sophie Miller. The Thunderbirds answered with a run of its own, coming to within one, 18-17, as the Eagles called timeout. Not to be deterred, EWU scored three straight points of the timeout, punctuated by kills from Waelter and freshman Kylie Curtis. The hosts responded with a kill from Ann Clappier to pull back to within two, 22-20, but the two kills from Waelter evened the match score at 1-1.

Eastern controlled the play in the third set, opening up a quick 7-2 lead as Southern Utah took its first timeout. The Eagles maintained their momentum, using two services aces from Niemeier and a kill from Watson to go up eight, 16-8, midway through the frame. The Thunderbirds would get no closer as EWU ran away with the frame, tying its season record for largest point differential in a set with the victory.

The fourth set went back and forth early, with the teams battling to a 10-10 tie. After an attack error from Waelter, the Eagles scored the next four points to take a three-point lead and force SUU to call timeout. EWU extended its advantage to five, 19-14, on a kill from Watson and would not look back from there, cruising to the set and match victory.

Clappier recorded a match-high 14 kills for Southern Utah. Taylor Heine finished with 10 blocks while Sarah Pelaez tallied 20 digs.

Both teams hit below .200, with EWU hitting at a .184 clip while the Thunderbirds finished with a hitting percentage of .081. SUU out blocked the Eagles, 14-8, but Eastern recorded six service aces while Southern Utah finished without a single ace.

The Eagles continue their road trip with a Big Sky match at Northern Arizona on Saturday, Oct. 5. The match is set for 7 p.m.

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