October 8, 2008

Q and A: Volleyball Player Mandy Daniels

Oct. 8, 2008

By Keenan Bowen, EWU Sports Information

With the end of her playing career at Eastern Washington in sight, Mandy Daniels has been a mainstay in the back row for the Eagles since she first stepped onto Reese Court as a true freshman straight out of Spokane’s University High School in 2005.

Daniels has 1,141 career digs with twelve regular-season matches remaining this season and will more than likely finish in the top five career digs in school history. Daniels is on pace to set the school record for career digs per set, as her current average of 4.31 is ahead of Andrea 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).

The Eastern Washington University volleyball team has two important matches on slate for this week. The Eagles will take on Big Sky Conference first-place team Portland State this Friday (Oct. 10) at Reese Court and will play at Gonzaga University on Monday (Oct. 13). Both contests start at 7 p.m.

Though important in their own right, these two matches became increasingly important as the team stumbled in their last two contests, at Northern Colorado, 3-0, and at Northern Arizona, 3-1. The Eagles are currently in fifth place in the Big Sky with an overall record of 6-9 and a Big Sky record of 3-3.

Q: What are the team’s goals for the remainder of the Big Sky season?

A: "Our goal is to win all of our matches at home. I think we have a great home court advantage, and we are comfortable playing at home. If we can do that and get at least a split on the road, we should be in good shape. Obviously winning both on the road is ideal, but it can be difficult sometimes."

Q: You guys almost pulled off a come-from-behind victory against No. 13 Colorado State (13-1) earlier this season. What did that match do to build team confidence?

A: "We were down two sets and then we won the next two to force a fifth. We knew going in that they were a really tough team. It wasn’t ideal being down 2-0 but we didn’t really have anything to lose, so we just came out and played really well the next three sets and fought back. I think we were proud of ourselves for at least coming back and not giving up. It was definitely some of the best volleyball we’ve played this season."

Q: You are nearing numerous records at Eastern. Do you think about those, or are they just numbers?

A: "Not really. I just focus on having a good consistent game, and I don’t always think about the digs. If it’s near me I’ll go for it and hope for the best. It’s nice to know that I am doing well, and that’s great if it helps the team. But I also have to concentrate on other things like passing, serving and other things."

Q: Last year you were part of the second-highest scoring match in Division I history, a victory against Montana. What was that like, and did you realize it at the time?

A: "We were just trying to win. Our main goal was just to win, and that was a really long night. I think if it was a really good match and we were playing our best, along with Montana, it would have been more memorable."

Q: What is your favorite volleyball memory?

A: "I’d have to say my senior year at University High School. We went undefeated in the Greater Spokane League and we beat Mead, who had won state numerous times in a row. I think that was the most exciting moment, completing an undefeated season against some great teams."

Q: What part of volleyball do you like best?

A: "I think just the competitiveness; I like to win. Practices can be long and hard, but once you get in the matches -- playing competitively together is the best part."

Q: Best thing about being a Division I student-athlete?

A: "Just having the opportunity to do it. Not too many people can say they have played a Division I sport. Being able to represent our school and do well is great."

Q: Worst thing about being a Division I student-athlete?

A: "It takes a lot of your time. Managing time with school work, practices and especially during the season when we are traveling is probably the hardest. Just keeping up with teachers and getting homework done is the biggest challenge."

Q: Who has been the most influential person in your playing career?

A: "I would have to say my parents. They’ve always supported me and are always happy for me. They wanted me to keep playing after high school, and they come to all of our home matches, which is great."

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