September 23, 2008

Finally ... At Home!

Sept. 23, 2008

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After opening its 2008 season with 11 straight matches away from home, the Eastern Washington University volleyball team will play its home opener on Thursday (Sept. 25) against Montana State. Two nights later, the Eagles take on Montana; both matches start at 7 p.m.

The Eagles have had an up-and-down beginning to its campaign, defeating teams like Arkansas, Notre Dame and Washington State and taking Colorado State, currently ranked 13th nationally, to a full five sets on the road, but also falling to other squads that entered the match-ups with subpar records. This past weekend was indicative of that, as the Eagles outlasted a tough Weber State squad 3-2 before getting swept by Idaho State, who entered the contest with a 2-9 record.

“It’s always good to get a win on the road - if you went .500 on the road the whole year and kept home-court advantage, I think you would be pretty happy with your season,” head coach Miles Kydd said. “Having said that, I think we let one get away at Idaho State. I take responsibility for the way we played, and we will do a better job in training this week.

“It is important to understand, however, we spent 9-of-11 days on the road, and our health was showing that. Against Weber State, three of our starters were very sick and we ran out of gas. We then sat people the third and fourth sets when it was apparent we were not going to win those sets in order to try to win the fifth set.”

Eastern Washington is now looking to get some more stability in its play with the commencement of its home schedule against the Montana schools.

Montana State is off to a 3-9 start to its season, 0-2 in Big Sky Conference play. The Bobcats fell in home contests to Northern Arizona, 3-0, and Northern Colorado, 3-1, over the weekend.

Meanwhile, Montana is 6-6 and is tied for first in the Big Sky with Portland State with a 2-0 league record after winning a pair of home contests, 3-1 over Northern Colorado and 3-2 over Northern Arizona, last weekend.

The Eagles should also see a big crowd on Thursday, as the team’s home opener will take place the day after fall quarter starts, allowing many students the opportunity to attend the contest.

“We are looking forward to being at home, and it works out nice that the first home match takes place the day after school starts,” Kydd said. “Hopefully we can take some energy off of a big crowd. I encourage everybody to come out and watch.”

This weekend also starts a stretch of 7-of-10 contests to be played at home (and one of those three away contests is just 20 miles away in Spokane, versus Gonzaga).

Three Earn All-Tournament Honors                
A trio of Eagles has earned All-Tournament honors in 2008.

At the Idaho Volleyball Classic, played from Sept. 5-6, Ashley Hamilton and Hayley Hills earned mention to the team.

The first tournament of the year, the Hilton Classic from Aug. 29-30, saw both Mandy Daniels and Hills earn All-Tournament accolades.

Kydd Takes over Reigns                                    
The 2008 Eastern Washington Eagles will be led by first-year head coach Miles Kydd.

Kydd, however, is no stranger to the program, as he spent the past four years as the team’s assistant coach.

He also brings to the position several years of experience at the international level as well as at the collegiate level from his native Canada.

Joining him on the coaching staff is Lisa Westlake, a highly-respected mind in the sport of volleyball, and Wes Walker, who has worked with the Eagles the past couple years as a volunteer assistant coach.

Daniels Hits 1,000 Mark                                   
Senior libero Mandy Daniels hit and surpassed the 1,000-dig mark the first week of the season.

Compiling 30 in Eastern’s 3-2 loss to No. 17 Colorado State on Aug. 30 pushed her career total to 1,017. (she now has 1,083) That match-total of 30 is the fourth-highest by any Big Sky Conference player in 2008 and the most by an Eagle since she had 33 against Sacramento State on Nov. 16, 2007.

After a quality first weekend of play, she earned mention to the Hilton Classic’s All-Tournament team.

Daniels is on pace to set the school record for career digs per set, as her current average of 4.13 is ahead of Verdoljak’s 3.95 (2002-04). She is also nearing the top-five list for total digs, as her sum of 1,083 trails the fifth spot by just 82.

Daniels also had an incredible 2007 season.

She finished 2007 with 4.81 digs per set, which smashed the previous record of 4.62, then held by Andrea Verdoljak (2005). The year before, 2006, Daniels had 4.40 digs per set, good for fifth on that list.

Also, Daniels had 539 total digs in 2007, just one shy of that school record of 540, held by Verdoljak (2005).

For her outstanding play last year, she earned Big Sky Conference Libero of the Year accolades.

Hills Getting Some Major Elevation                      
Outside hitter Hayley Hills is averaging 3.97 kills per set, which leads all Big Sky Conference players and ranks her 36th in the NCAA Division I ranks.

The first weekend of the season, Hills earned mention to the All-Tournament team at the Hilton Classic. She averaged 3.36 kills per set in Eastern’s three contests and earned her 600th career kill in the tournament’s finale against No. 17 Colorado State.

Hills then moved her impressive streak of being named to All-Tournament teams to five after earning accolades at the Idaho Volleyball Classic on Sept. 6.

Her career average of 3.66 kills per set currently places her second in Eagle history in that category.

On Thursday (Sept. 18), Hills had 26 kills, which is the highest kill output for any Big Sky player so far in 2008. It also marks the highest total by an Eagle since Hills had 30 against Idaho State on Sept. 15, 2007.

Hills is coming off an outstanding year, as she placed herself fourth in the Eagle record book for both kills per set (4.38) and total kills (491) in 2007.

In 2007, Hills was rewarded for her performances with an appointment to the All-Big Sky Conference first team.

Ashley Assists Anyone and Everyone           
Setter Ashley Hamilton has had an impressive season so far setting up Eastern hitters for kills. So far in 2008, she is averaging 9.45 assists per set, the fifth-highest average among Big Sky Conference players and good enough to rank her 116th among the NCAA Division I ranks.

She also earned All-Idaho Volleyball Classic honors the second week of the season. For the weekend’s three matches, she averaged 11.00 assists per set and also contributed 19 digs, seven kills, six blocks and three service aces.

Hamilton also has been serving tough, as her 0.30 aces per set ranks her seventh in the Big Sky and 331st nationally.

On Thursday (Sept. 18), she had 59 assists, which is the second-highest total by any Big Sky Conference player so far in 2008 (trails Montana’s Taryn Wright, who had 61 against Northern Arizona on Saturday, Sept. 20).

Last season, Hamilton had 7.77 assists per set, which would have placed her ninth among Big Sky Conference players if she had played in 75 percent of Eastern’s sets (she played in 63 percent, 70 of 112).

Holding the ‘Backs to Negative Numbers       
On Aug. 30, Eastern Washington dominated Arkansas in a 25-23, 25-12, 25-14 win, holding the Razorbacks to a -.085 hitting percentage. That marked the first time EWU has held an opponent to a negative hitting percentage since a 3-0 win over St. Francis (N.Y.) on Sept. 1, 2006.

New NCAA Rules for 2008                       
The term “game” has been changed to “set.” In other words, a team needs to win three sets to claim a match. Volleyball throughout the world has referred to “sets” rather than “games” for the past several years.

The number of points required to win sets 1-4 is now 25. From 2001-07, it was 30. Rally scoring remains in effect; prior to 2001, the serving team was the only one allowed to tally a point on any single rally. The fifth set will also remain rally scoring, played to 15 points. All sets must still be won by at least two points.

This rule change was enacted to increase focus and excitement levels, from both players and spectators, throughout each set. International and Olympic volleyball has used 25-point sets since moving to the rally-scoring system in 1999.

As a result, the number of substitutions allowed for each team per set has been decreased from 15 to 12.

Where Will the Team Start 2009?                   
With its season-opening contest with Denver on Aug. 29, the Eastern Washington Eagles will have now opened the past 10 seasons (1999-2008) in 10 different districts/states (in chronological order from 1999: District of Columbia, Michigan, Maine, Florida, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Kansas, Arizona and Colorado).

Eagles Place Fifth in Preseason Poll               
The Eastern Washington Eagles were selected fourth in the Big Sky Conference’s preseason poll. Portland State placed first and was followed, in order, by Sacramento State, Weber State, EWU, Northern Colorado, Montana, Northern Arizona, Idaho State and Montana State.

Looking Back at 2007                       
The Eagles are coming off another outstanding season, as Eastern went 12-4 in Big Sky Conference play to finish third, its 12th-straight top-three league finish, and advanced to the league semifinals for the 11th consecutive campaign. Eastern Washington also went a perfect 7-0 in five-set matches and rallied from a sets deficit on nine separate occasions. The last came in a comeback 3-2 win over Northern Arizona in the Big Sky quarterfinals.

The team returns all six starters plus the libero from that squad (and 10 of 12 letterwinners). This year’s squad has a mix of experience and youth, as it will be comprised of two seniors, four juniors, four sophomores and six freshmen.

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