Missoula, Mont. – The Eastern Washington women's volleyball team did nearly everything right Thursday night against host Montana, recording a higher hitting percentage, fewer errors and more service aces than the Grizzlies. Despite its statistical victory, the Eagles were upended by the Griz in four sets in a Big Sky match at the West Auxiliary Gym despite double-doubles from junior Kelsey Julian and senior Lindsay Niemeier.
Eastern's losing skid continues as the Eagles fall to 7-17 (4-9 Big Sky) with the loss while the Griz evened their record at 11-11 (8-5 BSC). Set scores for the match were: 24-26, 25-16, 20-25, 23-25.
Julian continued her strong play of late, finishing with her first career double-double behind a match-high 16 kills and 10 digs. She hit .267 for the match, committing four errors on a career-high 45 swings.
Niemeier tallied 36 assists on the night to go along with 12 digs, good for her team-best fifth double-double of the year. She added four kills and three blocks.
Sophomore Ryann Ensrud led the Eagles with 14 digs and three service aces. Doerpinghaus paced the squad with six blocks and set a new career mark with six digs.
EWU looked like a team on a mission in the early going, jumping out to a 5-1 lead thanks to some solid serving from Niemeier. The hosts rallied to within one, 9-8, on a kill from Kayla Reno, but the Eagles answered, going back up five, 15-10, after Schumacher put away a kill from Niemeier. Montana would tie the match at 18-18 only to see EWU rally to pull ahead by three, 21-18, on another Schumacher kill. With the score tied at 22-22, an attack error from the Griz and a block from Schumacher and Doerpinghaus gave the Eagles set point, but Montana rallied to score the next four points to shock Eastern and win the opening frame.
Undeterred by the ending of the previous set, the Eagles continued their strong play into the second frame, taking an 11-7 lead on a ball handling error from the Grizzlies. With Ensrud serving, Eastern reeled off three straight points to go up 16-9 and would cruise from there, winning by nine in commanding fashion to even the match heading into the break.
This time it was Montana who came out strong, turning a 7-7 tie into a 15-8 lead midway through the third set. Eastern continued to show fight, pulling to within one, 18-17, on a kill from Fermantez, but the Eagles would get no closer as the Grizzlies responded with a 4-0 run to break open the set and move one step closer to victory.
The fourth set was a back-and-forth affair throughout as neither squad was able to gain much separation. With the Griz up three, 9-6, a service error and an Ensrud ace brought the Eagles to within one, 9-8, only to see the hosts open up a four-point lead with three straight points. EWU battled back to tie the match at 18-18, forcing a Montana timeout, before using an attack error to take a 19-18 lead. The Grizzlies answered with three consecutive points, going up 21-19, but a kill from Schumacher and another attack error tied the score at 21-21. The score would stay tied at 22-22 and 23-23 before a kill from Reno and an attack error from Julian gave Montana the set and the match.
Reno led Montana with 15 kills while Brooke Bray and Kelsey Schile added 11 kills apiece. Reno added 14 kills to notch a double-double while Kortney James finished with a double-double of 42 assists and 14 digs.
Eastern hit .131 for the match to the Grizzlies' .124 hitting percentage, and committed seven fewer errors than the hosts. EWU notched seven service aces to Montana's five, but the Griz tallied 11 blocks to the Eagles' 10.
Eastern's trip through Montana continues with a match at Montana State on Saturday, Nov. 2. First serve is set for 6 p.m.