Oct. 1, 2007
Now that the Eastern Washington University volleyball team has won two more five-game matches, the Eagles will look ahead to a Friday (Oct. 5) showdown with Portland State. The Eagles at 5-1 sit in third place in the Big Sky Conference standings, while the Vikings are 6-0 and at the top of the standings (up-to-date standings available on page 2).
Last week, EWU defeated Northern Colorado and Northern Arizona, both in five games, to extend its streak of consecutive five-game matches played and won to three, the longest since the Eagles defeated Nevada, Northern Arizona and Boise State from Sept. 21-28, 1990. Eastern Washington hasn't even played in three successive matches to go the limit since Oct. 12-16, 1993. Eastern's current overall winning streak is now five.
Eastern Washington and Portland State (12-4) will play at 7 p.m. on Friday (Oct. 5). The Eagles and Vikings have met in the Big Sky semifinals in each of the past three seasons, with EWU moving to the finals each time. In the last meeting between the teams, Eastern swept PSU in a tight match 30-26, 32-30, 34-32 to move on to the 2006 Big Sky championship match. Portland State has won the last two meetings to take place in the Rose City, however.
"It's going to be a big match," interim head coach Irene Matlock said. "We're in third place right now and in a great position. It's on the road in a really loud small gym, so it's going to be tough. Honestly speaking, no matter what happens, we're still in good shape. We anticipate a really fun, exciting match."
But before the Eagles (6-9) can set its sights on the Vikings, a match with Idaho (6-9) awaits. Eastern and the Vandals will play in Moscow at 7 p.m. on Tuesday (Oct. 2). The Inland Northwest rivals have played in each of the past three years, and the Eagles will bring a nine-match winning streak between the teams into the contest. The last meeting in Moscow on Oct. 18, 2005, saw Eastern escape with a 30-25, 30-26, 28-30, 21-30, 15-11 victory.
"It's very helpful, playing somebody else we haven't seen," Matlock said. "It's kind of a no-threat situation. It doesn't really matter what happens. What is really important to us is learning, how to adjust to different opponents down the road. If we should get out of the conference with the conference title and make it to the NCAA Championships, then we are going to play teams we have never seen before. So we have to learn how to adjust to new teams, how to make adjustments on what they do compared to what our conference does."
Off to a Fast Big Sky Start
The Eastern Washington Eagles are off to a 5-1 start in Big Sky Conference play, its best since the 2004 squad also began its league campaign 5-1.
The most recent wins were entertaining to say the least. On Saturday (Sept. 29), the Eagles outlasted Northern Arizona 20-30, 30-27, 30-23, 31-33, 15-13. The drama was at peak level late, as the teams were never separated by more than two points from the time that Eastern held a 25-23 lead in the fourth game until the end of the fifth stanza.
A loud crowd the day after Eastern students returned to classes helped boost the Eagles to a 23-30, 30-23, 30-21, 27-30, 15-10 victory over Northern Colorado. on Thursday (Sept. 27).
The statistical highlight of the match was Allison Reinstein's 11 blocks, the fifth-most tallied by a Big Sky player so far in 2007. Alysha Cook had 19 kills, while Hills contributed a double-double with 18 kills and 11 digs.
An impressive road trip to the Treasure State saw Eastern Washington defeat 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.
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 mark with 34 against Portland State on Sept. 6, 1996). The total was the highest attained by an Eagle in at least five years.
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 29 digs or morein a match.
Going the Limit
Eastern Washington has played three straight five-game matches and has won each of them. The wins are over Montana, Northern Colorado and Northern Arizona from Sept. 22-29.
That has not happened for EWU since the Eagles toppled Nevada, Northern Arizona and Boise State in three successive five gamers from Sept. 21-28, 1990.
Eastern has not even played three straight matches to go the limit since Oct. 12-16, 1993, when EWU lost to Washington State before beating Idaho State and Boise State.
"It makes for good entertainment, doesn't it?" interim head coach Irene Matlock asked. "It's good to know we can win in five.
"It does show our inconsistency in play, however. We dropped the first game against both Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado (last week), then took two and dropped the fourth. However, (NAU's) Kim Babcock having 33 kills can put you on edge, too. She had a really great match."
To put this incredible stretch of matches into perspective, the Eagles only played two five gamers in two of the past three years (2006 and 2004, the 2005 team played five to go five).
Eastern has never played four straight five-game contests since joining the NCAA Division I ranks with the 1984 season.
Hills Getting Some Major Elevation
Sophomore outside hitter Hayley Hills has had an amazing set of performances this 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 12-of-15 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."
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).
Against Montana State and Montana, 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.
After having a double-double in Eastern's win over Northern Colorado with 18 kills and 11 digs, she tallied 25 kills to help lead the Eagles to a five-game win over Northern Arizona. That total is not only the second-highest posted by an Eagle so far in 2007, but the fourth-highest by any Big Sky player.
Her 4.05 kills per game average is not only tops on the team, but ranks the sophomore third among Big Sky players. She is second on the Eagles in digs per game with 2.19 and service aces per game with 0.23. Hills is also fourth in blocks per game with 0.47.
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 4.81 (her average in conference matches is an incredible 5.50 per game).
Daniels has posted 20+ dig totals on eight occasions so far this season.
On 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.
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 stanzas.
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 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 second on the team in blocks per game so far this year with 0.89.
Eagle sophomore setter Amanda Yausie three times this season has recorded 51 assists in a contest.
She had that total in Eastern's dramatic 3-2 win over Northern Arizona on Saturday (Sept. 29). Earlier this season, she had that sum in a 3-1 loss to Utah State on Aug. 25 and then a 3-2 win over Colgate on Aug. 31.
Those totals tie for the sixth-highest assist total of her career.
She set a personal best in hitting percentage (eight attempts minimum) in the Utah State contest at .571 (8-0-14) before shattering that mark once again against Montana on Sept. 22 by hitting at a .625 clip (6-1-8).
Not only is she setting the team pace in assists per game (9.80), but also in service aces per game (0.31). Yausie is fifth and tied for ninth among Big Sky Conference players in those categories, respectively.
Freshman Allison Reinstein has been a blocking force for the Eagles in 2007, as evidenced by her 0.91 blocks per game.
In Eastern's 3-2 win over Northern Colorado on Thursday (Sept. 27), she had 11. It is the most attained by an Eagle since Keva Sonderen had 12 against Weber State on Nov. 9, 2002.
That total not only is the most recorded by an Eagle this year, but is the fourth-highest total tallied by a Big Sky player, as well.
She has had at least four blocks in five straight matches.
Can You Smell What She is Cooking?
Freshman outside hitter Alysha Cook has played well for the Eagles, as her 2.45 kills per game average is the third-highest on the team. She is also third on the squad in blocks per game with 0.61.
In Eastern's 3-2 win over Northern Colorado on Thursday (Sept. 27), she led the Eagles in kills for the third time this season with 19 (she and Hayley Hills are the only two Eagles to lead the Eagles in kills in a match so far this year).
She led the team in kills in Eastern's match with No. 16 Hawai'i, contributing nine in that contest. She also had eight versus Wichita State.
"When she hits, she hits really hard, so that's a plus for us," interim head coach Irene Matlock said.
Sophomore outside hitter Chelsea Ross had her best hitting performance of the season on 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 seven times so far in 2007.
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 2.03 digs per contest, the fourth-highest average on the squad.
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 six 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.
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 88-13 (.871 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.