Heading to the Mountains

Sept. 30, 2008

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This weekend, the Eastern Washington University volleyball team will take its final road trip out of the Cheney-Spokane area until Oct. 30, as the Eagles play at Northern Colorado and Northern Arizona on Thursday (Oct. 2) and Saturday (Oct. 4), respectively. The UNC contest begins at 6 p.m. Pacific Time, and the NAU match will start at 7 p.m.

The Eagles are coming off an impressive first home weekend of the season, defeating Montana State in convincing fashion, 25-14, 25-16, 25-16, and pulling away from Montana, 25-22, 27-29, 26-24, 25-13. The wins moved Eastern Washington to sole possession of second place in the Big Sky standings with a 3-1 league mark.

The Eagles are 6-7 overall after playing well against a challenging non-conference slate of contests. During that portion of the schedule, the Eagles defeated teams like Arkansas, Notre Dame and Washington State and took Colorado State, a squad currently ranked 12th nationally, to a full five sets on the road.

Northern Colorado is off to a 2-1 Big Sky start and is in the midst of a four-match homestand (the EWU contest will be the second of those four). Overall, the Bears possess a quality 8-3 record and claimed the La Salle Tournament championship with a perfect 4-0 record.

Meanwhile, Northern Arizona is off to its best start in 17 years at 10-2. The Lumberjacks also possess a 2-1 league record. They had two perfect tournaments, the Hilton Garden Inn/NAU Invitational and the Fiesta Bowl Tournament.

Following this weekend, the Eagles will play six straight matches in the Cheney-Spokane area, the first of those coming against first-place Portland State on Oct. 10.

Hills Getting Some Major Elevation

Hayley Hills has performed at an incredibly high rate this year, as she has posted the two highest kill totals in the Big Sky Conference so far in 2008. On Saturday (Sept. 27), she had 28 kills in a 3-1 win over Montana, while Hills tallied 26 putaways at Weber State in a 3-2 win on Sept. 18.

This past week, she earned Big Sky Player of the Week accolades after she had 5.86 kills and 3.14 digs per set against Montana State and Montana. She also hit at a .431 clip (41-10-72) in the pair of contests.

Her season average of 4.26 kills per set not only leads all Big Sky players, but ranks her 19th among all NCAA Division I players.

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 that week and earned her 600th career kill in the tournament's finale against then-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 3.74 kills per set currently places her second in Eagle history in that category. Incredibly she has increased her career average from 3.59 entering the season after the NCAA lowered the point totals needed to win a set from 30 to 25 prior to the commencement of the 2008 campaign.

This season, she has compiled exactly 200 kills.

Daniels Hits 1,000-Dig 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 1,123) That match-total of 30 is the fifth-highest by any Big Sky Conference player in 2008 and was 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.

She then surpassed even that total when she had 31 in EWU's 3-1 win over Montana on Saturday (Sept. 27). That sum is tied for the third-most by a Big Sky player this year.

Daniels is on pace to set the school record for career digs per set, as her current average of 4.39 is ahead of Verdoljak's 3.95 (2002-04). It is especially incredible that she has actually increased her digs per set average after the NCAA lowered the point totals needed to win a set from 30 to 25 prior to the 2008 season (entering 2008, her career average was 4.32).

She is also nearing the top-five list for total digs, as her sum of 1,123 trails the fifth spot by just 42.

Ashley Assists Anyone and Everyone          
Setter Ashley Hamilton has had an impressive season setting up Eastern hitters for kills. So far in 2008, she is averaging 9.70 assists per set, the fourth-highest average among Big Sky Conference players and the average is good enough to rank her 102nd among all NCAA Division I players.

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 she also contributed 19 digs, seven kills, six blocks and three service aces.

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

Then, this past week versus Montana State and Montana, she not only contributed 11.14 assists per set, but she was also an intimidating attacking force herself, as she hit at a .480 clip (14-2-25).

"Her attack is a big deal for us, because it really messes with the other team," head coach Miles Kydd said. "They don't know what to do. With her hitting at a 50 percent clip, if you don't dedicate a blocker to her, you're in trouble, but if you do, she sets another hitter and you're in trouble again.

"Ashley is playing really well, and I'm proud of what she is doing."

Chenoa Shoots Into Block Rankings
             
Chenoa Coviare has been an intimidating presence at the net this year, as evidenced by her 0.85 blocks per set, an average that ranks her 10th in the Big Sky Conference and 276th among NCAA Division I players.

This past week versus Montana State and Montana, she contributed an impressive average of 1.43 blocks per set (10 blocks in seven sets). She also hit .400 (20-6-35) in the two contests.

"(Montana's) Jamie Thibeault is one of the best middles in the conference, and Chenoa was swing-for-swing with her," head coach Miles Kydd said. "She played an outstanding match on Saturday, and if she continues to play at that high level, we'll be fine."

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 attain All-Tournament accolades.

Kydd Takes over Reigns
                                   
The 2008 Eastern Washington Eagles are being 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, as well as Wes Walker, who has worked with the Eagles the past couple years as a volunteer assistant coach.

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.

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