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Sept. 24, 2007

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Following an emotional two-match road sweep of the Montana schools, the Eastern Washington University volleyball team returns to Cheney for its first two home matches of the season to take place with school in session (fall quarter classes start on Wednesday).

Eastern will play host to Northern Colorado at 7 p.m. on Thursday (Sept. 27) before taking on Northern Arizona at 1 p.m. on Saturday (Sept. 29).

Last year, the Eagles and Bears split their first two matches in UNC's first year in the Big Sky Conference. Each team won in four games on the other team's home court. Eastern has taken 10-of-11 meetings with NAU, although the Lumberjacks prevailed in Cheney last year 3-0.

This year Northern Colorado is off to an impressive 2-1 Big Sky start in the early portion of the schedule. Last year, the Bears advanced to the Big Sky semifinals. The Lumberjacks are 1-2 in the league after sweeping Montana State in their opener and falling to Montana and Sacramento State.

The Eagles came into Bozeman, Mont., last week and swept the Bobcats before making the 200-mile trek to Missoula to outlast the host Montana Grizzlies in five. In the Montana match, Eastern was down 8-4 in the fifth game before going on a clutch 6-2 run to tie the contest at 10-all. After the teams got to 12-12, Eastern scored the final three points of the contest.

"We're excited about the little steps we're taking as a team," interim head coach Irene Matlock said. "It's those little things that our team is doing individually that are culminating into a team effort.

"That Montana trip was a long one. It kind of drained all of us. Physically they felt it. We didn't play our best against Montana, and it was really neat that we won knowing we were not playing our best."


Off to a Fast Start

The Eastern Washington Eagles are off to a 3-1 start in Big Sky Conference play, its best since the 2004 squad began its league campaign with a 4-0 record.

The two most recent wins came on an impressive road trip to the Treasure State, when Eastern defeated Montana State, 34-32, 30-19, 30-24, and Montana, 24-30, 30-22, 30-26, 25-30, 15-12.

In the MSU contest, Mandy Daniels had the most outstanding performance for the Eagles, as she tallied 23 digs in the contest. That total was the most attained by an Eagle in a three-game contest since Andrea Verdoljak had 24 in an Oct. 27, 2005, contest with Sacramento State.

Against Montana, the Eagles dramatically rallied from 8-4 down in the fifth game for its win. With the score tied, 12-12, Eastern scored the final three points of the contest, helped by a very timely service ace by Chenoa Coviare to make the score 14-12.

"Chenoa came through for us in the fifth game with a string of services and an ace to bring us to 14," interim head coach Irene Matlock said. "Also her defense in the back court helped us a lot."

In that contest, Chelsea Ross hit .406 (15-2-32), the first time she has exceeded .300 in a match this year. Also in that match, Amanda Yausie hit .625 (6-1-8) to go with her 41 assists. Hayley Hills led the team in kills for the 11th time in 13 matches with 20 putaways.

The first weekend, Eastern rallied from a 30-27, 27-30, 32-30, 31-29 loss to Weber State for a 26-30, 30-25, 30-22, 30-26 win over Idaho State.

In the ISU match, Hills came within four kills of the school record with 30 (Kim Exner holds the record with 34 against Portland State on Sept. 6, 1996). The total was the highest attained by an Eagle in at least five years.

"It was a great match for Hayley, because she put herself in the 30-kill club (http://www.avca.org/collegiate/07DI30Kill.asp), which puts us a on the map a little bit," interim head coach Irene Matlock said.

Daniels, meanwhile, not only had 29 digs in that contest, but also contributed 29 digs two days earlier versus Weber State. To put that into perspective, there have been only seven occurances since the beginning of the 2002 season of an Eagle earning at least 29 digs in a match, a span of more than five years.

"Mandy did a great job in the back court with her digs," Matlock said.


Hills Getting Some Major Elevation

Sophomore outside hitter Hayley Hills has had an amazing set of performances over the first five weeks of the season. In the initial three weeks, she earned mention to all-tournament teams in each of the tournaments that Eastern Washington has played in, the Sheraton Four Points Wildcat Classic, the PowerAde/Asics Classic and the Waikiki Beach Marriott Volleyball Classic.

She is one of just four Big Sky Conference players to earn all-tournament honors three separate times this year. The others are Montana State's Laura Viren, Northern Arizona's Kim Babcock and Sacramento State's Missie Stidham and Lindsay Houpt (four times for Houpt).

Hills has led the Eagles in kills in 11-of-13 matches.

"Hayley is a dynamic player, a jumper, who has gotten the kills we have needed from the outside," interim head coach Irene Matlock said. "She also comes in with a combination in the middle, has done serve receiving/passing and is a good consistent server; she is an all-around player for us."

In the first weekend of play on the University of Arizona campus, she tallied 3.3 kills and 2.4 digs per game in the three matches.

Her best performance that weekend came against the host Wildcats, when she recorded 15 kills to lead the team and break a personal record, previously set at 14 in a 3-1 win over Texas-San Antonio on Aug. 26, 2006.

In her next three matches at the University of San Francisco, she averaged 4.00 kills, 2.50 digs and 0.58 blocks per game and hit .291 (48-14-117) in the three matches.

Hills' best match that weekend came in Eastern's dramatic 3-2 win over Colgate, as she had 22 kills in that contest. That not only broke her previous career record of 15 (set just two matches previously in that Arizona contest), but it was also the most recorded by any Eagle since Chrystal Johnson had 25 in a 3-1 win over Northern Colorado on Nov. 2, 2006.

The next weekend, Hills tallied 2.44 kills and 2.22 digs per game in three matches. Her best performance came in Eastern's 30-27, 30-16, 30-24 loss to No. 19 Santa Clara. She led the Eagles with 11 of the team's 31 kills and also tallied nine digs, the third-highest Eagle total in that category.

The first weekend in the Big Sky Conference campaign, she had an amazing 6.12 kills per game and hit .294 (49-17-109). She also had 1.50 digs per game and 0.50 blocks per game in those pair of matches. Her 30 kills against Idaho State on Saturday (Sept. 15) was just four off of the school record (set at 34 by Kim Exner against Portland on Sept. 6, 1996).

Last weekend, she performed at the top level of her game in numerous areas, averaging 4.50 kills per game, hitting .253 (36-12-95) and contributing 2.38 digs per game and 0.75 blocks per game. She led the team in kills in both matches with 16 and 20, respectively.

Her 4.00 kills per game average is not only tops on the team, but ranks the sophomore third among Big Sky players. She is third on the Eagles in blocks per game with 0.49 and also has 2.23 digs and 0.19 service aces per game.


Spectacular in the Back

Serving as an impressive stabilizing force in the back row is junior Mandy Daniels. She has played well the entire season and is leading all Big Sky Conference players in digs per game with 4.87.

On Thursday (Sept. 20), she had 23 digs in Eastern's 3-0 win over Montana State, the highest total attained by an Eagle in a three-game match since Andrea Verdoljak had 24 in an Oct. 27, 2005, match with Sacramento State.

This first weekend of Big Sky Conference play, she had two of the best performances in Eagle history, tallying 29 digs in each contest. To put that into perspective, only seven times since the beginning of the 2002 season has any Eagle tallied 29 digs in a contest.

Daniels began 2007 on a high note, as she tied a then-career record for digs in a three-game match with 21 versus Arizona on its home court.

That contest started an impressive stretch of four straight matches in which Daniels recorded at least 19 digs (21-20-19-22). She has tallied at least eight digs in each of Eastern's 13 contests.

"Mandy Daniels has done a great job as our libero," interim head coach Irene Matlock said. "She has dug some seriously great balls and has really picked up our defense."


Unstoppable Chenoa

Freshman middle blocker Chenoa Coviare had a simply amazing performance in Eastern Washington's incredible comeback 25-30, 23-30, 30-18, 30-19, 15-10 victory over Colgate on Aug. 31.

In that match, Coviare hit .750 (17-2-20), an extraordinary hitting percentage for a five-game match, and was literally perfect the final three games, hitting 1.000 (8-0-8) in those contests.

The hitting percentage was the highest recorded by an Eagle (with at least 12 kills) since Brittney Page hit .875 (15-1-16) in a 3-0 sweep of St. Francis (N.Y.) on Sept. 1, 2006. It is also the second-highest hitting percentage recorded by an Eagle in at least five years.

In Eastern Washington's clutch 3-2 road win over Montana on Saturday (Sept. 22), she played well, as she tallied 14 kills and served at a high level, including serving up an ace to put Eastern up 14-12 in the fifth game.

"The ace at 14 was huge," interim head coach Irene Matlock said.

She is setting the team pace in blocks per game so far this year with 0.89 (she is 10th among Big Sky Conference players).


Amazing Amanda

Eagle sophomore setter Amanda Yausie finished her play at the Sheraton Four Points Wildcat Classic on a high note, tallying 51 assists in a 3-1 loss to Utah State on Aug. 25. The assist total is the sixth-highest total of her career. Even more impressively, she hit .571 (8-0-14) in that contest, by far the best hitting performance of her career up to that point (with at least eight attacks).

Her third-best career hitting percentage was set in her next match versus Colgate on Aug. 31, when she hit at a .333 clip (6-2-12). She had 51 assists in that contest, as well.

Yausie then set a new personal record for hitting percentage in Eastern's 3-2 win over Montana at .625 (6-1-8).

Not only is she setting the team pace in assists per game (10.11), but also in service aces per game (0.33). She is fourth and tied for ninth among Big Sky Conference players in those categories, respectively.


Can You Smell What She is Cooking?

Freshman outside hitter Alysha Cook has played well for the Eagles, as her 2.43 kills per game average is the third-highest on the team. She is also fourth on the squad in blocks per game with 0.48.

Her best performance of the season came in Eastern's meeting with No. 16 Hawai'i on its home court, as she led the Eagles in kills with nine. She also set the team pace in that category against Wichita State with eight putaways. She and Hayley Hills are the only two Eagles to lead the team in kills in a match so far in 2007.

She also had 13 in Eastern's 3-0 sweep of Montana State on Thursday (Sept. 13), three off of the team lead.

"When she hits, she hits really hard, so that's a plus for us," interim head coach Irene Matlock said.


Ridiculous Ross

Sophomore outside hitter Chelsea Ross had her best hitting performance of the season on Saturday (Sept. 22), as she hit at a .406 clip (15-2-32) in Eastern Washington's dramatic 3-2 win at Montana. That was the first time she has hit over the .300 mark this season.

"Chelsea had a (season) personal best on her hitting percentage against Montana, so that was exciting," interim head coach Irene Matlock said. "She has blossomed and is coming into her own."

She ended the 2006 season on the highest of highs, not only leading the team in hitting percentage in its two biggest matches of the season, but nearly breaking a record in the process.

In Eastern's 3-0 sweep over Portland State in the Big Sky Conference semifinals, Ross hit .692 (9-0-13), the third-highest hitting percentage in Big Sky Championship history

The next day, she hit .333 (5-1-12) in the championship match showdown with Sacramento State.

She has recorded double-digit kill totals five times so far in 2007, versus Utah State (10), Colgate (14), Oral Roberts (14), Weber State (11), Idaho State (12) and Montana (15).


Ponce Returns Home

Honolulu native Kristen Ponce saw action in all three matches played in her home town at the Waikiki Beach Marriott Volleyball Classic from Sept. 6-8. She contributed 10 digs in Eastern's match with No. 19 Santa Clara.

"Kristen did a great job in the back court for us in Hawai'i," interim head coach Irene Matlock said. "She served some aces for us and is a great topspin jumper."

On the season, Ponce is contributing 2.20 digs per contest.


Jumping Jacoby (and Baby)

Heather Jacoby (maiden name Gordon) returns to the Eagle volleyball program after a two-year hiatus. In that time period, she and her husband, Michael, lived in Leesville, La., where he served in the Army at Fort Polk. During their time there, two hurricanes (Rita and Katrina) hit the area, which is located about 110 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico near the Texas border.

She and Michael have a son, Justin, who was born on Feb. 16, 2007.

Jacoby has seen action in five matches for the Eagles so far. She played in all four games of Eastern's 26-30, 30-25, 30-22, 30-26 win over Idaho State on Sept. 15, tallying 11 kills in the process. That nearly tripled her previous career high for kills in a match, previously set at four against Providence on Sept. 15, 2003.

"Heather did a great job for us against Idaho State," interim head coach Irene Matlock said.


First Win on her Birthday

Eagle interim head coach Irene Matlock celebrated her birthday in a memorable manner on Aug. 31, as the Eagles were able to rally from 2-0 down to defeat Colgate, 25-30, 23-30, 30-18, 30-19, 15-10. That was also the first time that Eastern Washington has rallied from two games down since a 30-32, 26-30, 30-27, 32-30, 15-10 victory over Oregon State on Oct. 5, 2002.

Matlock came to Eastern with an impressive resume garnered from her time as the head coach at the Community Colleges of Spokane.

In her time at CCS, she amassed a stunning 715-246 record (.744 winning percentage), attaining winning marks in every season. Her 1988 record of 54-2 (.964) earned her the highest win total and winning percentage in Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges (NWAACC) history.

In 1994, she was named the AVCA National Coach of the Year at the community college level.

She also has previous experiences with Eastern Washington, having earned a master's in science degree from the school in 1979. From 1977-79, she served as assistant coach and athletic intern, and she acted as the program services administrator in 1979.

She took over for former head coach Wade Benson, who departed on July 2 to take a position at Auburn.


Time to Make Some Noise

The Eagles enter 2007 with an amazing attendance streak, having averaged at least 1,000 fans per match for the past eight seasons.

Eastern Washington has also placed in the top 30 nationally in average attendance for the past 10 seasons with a high placement of 13th coming in 2003 (1,641 fans per contest).

Last year, Eastern Washington averaged 1,297 spectators per match, its best average in three years, and placed 26th in the final national rankings.

The Eagles have used that advantage to the utmost over the past 10+ years, going 86-13 (.869 winning percentage) in that time frame.

This week, Eastern Washington will play its first two home matches to occur with students on campus (fall quarter classes start on Wednesday).

"Of course, it's so much more fun to play at home," interim head coach Irene Matlock said. "So, to come home with school starting, to get some students in here to support us, will be awesome."


Let's Get This Party Started Early

Eastern Washington began the 2007 campaign with the earliest start date in school history, Aug. 24. The earliest pervious "opening day" for Eastern volleyball was Aug. 25, which happened last year as the Eagles began that season with 3-0 wins over Syracuse and Louisiana Tech.


Eagles Place Fifth in Preseason Poll

The Eastern Washington Eagles were selected fifth in the Big Sky Conference's preseason poll. Five-time defending champion Sacramento placed first and was followed by Portland State, Montana, Weber State, EWU, Northern Arizona, Idaho State, Northern Colorado and Montana State.


Where Will the Team Start the 2008 Season?

The Eastern Washington Eagles have now opened the past nine seasons (1999-2007) in nine different districts/states (in chronological order from 1999: District of Columbia, Michigan, Maine, Florida, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Kansas and Arizona).


Big Sky Championship Alterations

There will be a couple of changes to the Big Sky Conference Championship this year, as the tournament will be played at a predetermined site and will be contested over just two days, not three.

Sacramento State, by virtue of its regular-season title last year, will play host to the Championship. Previously, the current season's regular-season champion would host the tournament.

The matches will take place from Nov. 23-24, with both the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds taking place the first day and the final the second.

The NCAA Tournament begins the following weekend at 16 nonpredetermined campus sites throughout the country.


Audio/Video Coverage

All matches played either at Reese Court or on the road in Big Sky Conference play will be available to view on the Internet through the Eagle GamePlan. Information on subscribing may be accessed at www.goeags.com. Passes may be purchased for EWU contests only (which includes football and men's and women's basketball games, as well), all Big Sky Conference teams' matches or for single games.

Audio coverage for Eagle football games will be available through KGA's website,  www.1510kga.com. Men's and women's basketball contests will be broadcast through Teamline and may be accessed at www.teamline.cc. There is no cost for these broadcasts.

More information, including rosters, schedules, releases and statistics for every Eastern Washington University athletics team, may be accessed at www.goeags.com.

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