Eastern Toppled by Sacramento State in Showdown

Nov. 16, 2007

Box Score

The Eastern Washington University volleyball team played right with Sacramento State before the Hornets earned a tight game two win and dominated the third and fourth games of a Big Sky Conference match in Cheney on Friday (Nov. 16). The Hornets won the intense rivalry contest by 24-30, 30-28, 30-11, 30-17 scores.

Defensively Mandy Daniels led the way with a 33-dig performance, especially impressive considering the match only went four games. That total is the highest dig total by an Eagle since Andrea Verdoljak had 34 on Oct. 11, 2005, versus Idaho. It's the highest four-game dig total by an Eastern player in at least five years.

Also getting into the mix in the back court tonight were Kristen Ponce (13 digs) and Hayley Hills (12). Ponce was the lone senior on this year's team and was honored prior to the start of the match.

Hills also set the team pace in kills tonight with 17. Jacque Brown had 13 putaways, the second-highest total of the freshman's career. Alysha Cook contributed 12 kills.

The Eagles (14-14, 12-4 BSC) came out solid in the first game, rallying from a 6-3 deficit to go on a 7-2 run for a 10-8 lead. Eastern's lead would get up to as much as four at 20-16 before Sacramento State rallied to tie the stanza at 20-all. With the Eagles holding a precarious 25-24 lead, Eastern put the game away with five straight points, the last three on kills by Cook, Brown and Cook, respectively.

The second game also came down to the wire. From the point that Sacramento State (26-6, 13-2 BSC) was up 13-10 until the end of the game, neither team went up by more than two. The Eagles once again went down early, trailing 10-6 before cutting into the lead and finally going ahead 20-18. Eastern held a 28-26 lead, but the Hornets scored four straight tallies to tie the match at one game apiece.

"I think we got too confident at the end," Hills said. "We were neck-and-neck, and when we get up a few points we tend to relax a little and say, `we're ahead, we've got time.'"

Games three and four were all Sacramento State. The Hornets went up 23-6 on its way to a 30-11 game three victory and were up 19-9 in game four before finishing off their 30-17 win.

"We got ourselves into such a funk, and we couldn't pull ourselves out," interim head coach Irene Matlock said.

"We just hoped for a lot of balls to be out instead of following the line if we weren't sure," Hills said. "We found ourselves saying, `oh please, let the ball be out.'

"We got scared; we got intimidated tonight," Hills said. "We're going to get them when it counts, in the conference tournament."

The Hornets have now clinched at least a share of the Big Sky's regular-season title. A win over Portland State (12-3 BSC) on Saturday (Nov. 17) would earn Sacramento State an outright title while a Viking victory would allow those two teams to share the crown. Eastern can tie Portland State for second if Sacramento State earns the win.

The Eagles now look ahead to the Big Sky Conference Championship. Eastern Washington will play as the third seed (Portland State owns the tiebreaker over Eastern if the teams were to tie for second), and its first match will take place at either 9:30 or 11:30 a.m. next Friday (Nov. 23). Eastern Washington's opponent, the sixth seed, is still to be determined. Northern Arizona (6-9 BSC) holds a one game lead on Montana (5-10 BSC), but the Grizzlies hold the tiebreaker if the teams were to tie.

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