First-Place Showdown in the Rose City

Nov. 10, 2008

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The Eastern Washington University volleyball team plays a pivotal match on Saturday (Nov. 15) at 7 p.m. at Portland State. The Eagles are currently in second place in the league standings, but would tie for first with a victory over the Vikings, who currently hold the top spot.

Eastern put itself in this position with a pair of dominating performances last weekend, a 3-1 win over Northern Arizona and a 3-0 sweep of Northern Colorado. The latter victory moved Eastern Washington past UNC and into second place in the league standings with a 10-4 mark, 15-10 overall. Meanwhile, Portland State swept those same two teams to move into first at 11-3; the Vikings are 18-6 overall. UNC dropped to third at 9-4 in league contests, 15-7 overall.

A win by the Eagles not only would tie the Eagles for first with one match to go, but would also earn Eastern Washington all tiebreaker advantages in the event of a tie for first place with Portland State, with Northern Colorado or with both the Vikings and the Bears.

The Eagles would have a 2-0 head-to-head record against Portland State, the first tiebreaker, and Eastern holds a 130-122 points advantage over Northern Colorado to earn that tiebreaker edge. In the event of a three-way tie, the Eagles would be 3-1 in head-to-head match-ups, Northern Colorado would be 2-2 and Portland State would be 1-3. The Big Sky tiebreakers, in order, are win-loss record, sets record and points differential, all head-to-head.

Both Eastern Washington and Portland State close out their 2008 regular seasons with a match at Sacramento State on Nov. 21 and 22, respectively, while Northern Colorado finishes its campaign with home contests versus Idaho State, Weber State and Northern Arizona on Thursday (Nov. 13), Saturday and Nov. 22, respectively.

A Portland State win over the Eagles on Saturday would clinch the No. 1 seed for the Vikings in the Big Sky Championship and the right to host the 2009 event, as Eastern Washington would then be eliminated from the race, and Portland State holds the tiebreaker advantage over the only other team that could still have a mathematical chance of tying for first if that scenario plays itself out (Portland State holds a 4-3 sets advantage over UNC in head-to-head matches between the teams).

“We have our work cut out for us going to Portland State this week,” head coach Miles Kydd said.

Six teams advance to the 2008 Big Sky Championship with the top two earning byes into the semifinals. The event takes place from Nov. 28-29 in Portland, Ore., as the Vikings earned the right to host this year’s tournament by virtue of its top spot in the 2007 regular-season standings.

Hills Hits 30 Kills, Nears 1,000 Putaways  
Hayley Hills has performed at an incredibly high level this year, as she has posted the five highest kill totals in the Big Sky Conference so far in 2008.

Her 30 kills in a 3-1 win over Idaho State on Oct. 23 is the most tallied by any NCAA Division I player in a four-set match so far in 2008. It also was just four shy of the Eastern Washington school record (34, held by Kim Exner and achieved against Portland on Sept. 6, 1996).

In her career, Hills has tallied 976 kills and looks to become just the eighth Eagle in history to reach the 1,000-kill milestone.

Her season average of 4.44 kills per set not only leads all Big Sky players, but also ranks her 12th among all NCAA Division I players. It is currently the fourth-highest average in Eagle history.

Hills’ career average of 3.90 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.

That career average also currently ties her for ninth all-time in Big Sky history.   

“We are not going to win if just Hayley is playing well, and we need to keep contributions from other players, but there is no doubt Hayley is playing at a high level,” Kydd said.

She also has earned Big Sky Player of the Week accolades on three occasions this year - Oct. 25, Oct. 13 and Sept. 29 - to become the first Eagle to earn the award three times in the same season since Janelle Ruen did so in 2002.

The third occurrence saw her average 5.73 kills per set, hit .310 (63-18-145) and contribute 2.55 digs per set, second on the team in that category behind libero Mandy Daniels. She was also named a Top Performer on a national level by for her performances that week.

The second time she earned the POW award, Hills had a relatively rare 20-20 night in the week’s only match, compiling 20 kills and 21 digs in a 3-1 defeat of first-place Portland State. The dig total is a career high for the junior outside hitter.

“Her defense is starting to come along,” head coach Miles Kydd said at the time. “We have worked with her on staying engaged on defense, and she’s starting to do that better.”

The first time, she hit .431 (41-10-72) and had 5.86 kills and 3.14 digs per set in matches with Montana State and Montana.

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.

Hills then moved her impressive streak of being named to All-Tournament teams to five, dating to 2007, after she attained accolades at the Idaho Volleyball Classic on Sept. 6.

Daniels Enters Top-Five List                                  
Senior libero Mandy Daniels hit and surpassed the 1,000-dig mark the first week of the season and is now in the No. 4 spot on the EWU all-time career digs chart with 1,325. She became just the seventh Eagle in history to reach the 1,000-dig milestone.

Also, she possesses the 20th spot in Big Sky history and is just six from the 19th spot, currently held by Portland State’s Sarah Sirianni (2004-06). In fact, 16th place is just 32 digs away for Daniels.

Compiling 30 in Eastern’s 3-2 loss to No. 17 Colorado State on Aug. 30 pushed her career sum past 1,000 to 1,017. That match total is tied for the eighth-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.

She then surpassed that dig total when she had 31 in EWU’s 3-1 win over Montana on Sept. 27. That sum is tied for the sixth-most by a Big Sky player this year. It is also tied for the 30th-most by an NCAA Division I player in a four-set match this year.

After a quality first weekend of play, she earned mention to the Hilton Classic’s All-Tournament team. That week, she averaged 5.27 digs per set.

Daniels is on pace to set the school record for career digs per set, as her current average of 4.36 is ahead of Verdoljak’s 3.95 (2002-04). That average is also on pace to place her fifth all-time in Big Sky history.

It is especially impressive that she has actually improved 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 currently ranks third in the Big Sky and 68th among 2008 NCAA Division I players in digs per set.

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 9.62 assists per set, the fifth-highest average among Big Sky Conference players and 117th-best 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 contributed 19 digs, seven kills, six blocks and three service aces.

On Sept. 18, in a 3-2 road win over Weber State, she had 59 assists, the third-highest total by any Big Sky Conference player so far in 2008.

Then, versus Montana State and Montana on Sept. 25 and 27, respectively, she not only contributed 11.14 assists per set, but was also an intimidating attacking force herself, as she hit at a .480 clip (14-2-25). Hamilton is hitting at a .335 clip (93-21-215) this year.

“Her attack is a big deal for us, because it really messes with the other team,” head coach Miles Kydd said. “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.”

Chenoa Shoots Into Block Rankings  
Chenoa Coviare has been an intimidating presence at the net this year, as evidenced by her 0.99 blocks per set, an average that ranks her third in the Big Sky Conference and 151st among NCAA Division I players.

Over the past 11 matches, she has contributed an impressive 1.17 blocks per set (47 blocks in 40 sets).

“(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 (Sept. 27), and if she continues to play at that high level, we’ll be fine.”

Among Nation’s Best in Attendance              
The Eastern Washington volleyball team currently ranks 38th among NCAA Division I teams in average attendance at 965. The Eagles are 14th among teams from non-BCS conferences.

Four home crowds this year surpassed the 1,000 mark with the high mark coming in the home opener on Sept. 25, a 3-0 win over Montana State (1,282).

Eastern Washington record a perfect 9-0 record in home contests in 2008.

“We would like to find that magic when we go on the road (to play Portland State and Sacramento State in the upcoming weeks),” head coach Miles Kydd said.

The Eagles have ranked in the top 30 in attendance in 10 of the past 11 years.

Get Off! Get Off!                                        
Eastern Washington threw a pair of monkeys off its back within a week in mid-October.

The Eagles first beat local rival Gonzaga 25-14, 25-20, 15-25, 24-26, 15-11 on Oct. 13 to snap a two-match, two-year losing streak to the Bulldogs and earn their first win over GU since a 3-0 victory on Oct. 18, 2005.

Then, five days later, EWU earned its first win over six-time defending Big Sky Conference champion Sacramento State 25-17, 16-25, 22-25, 27-25, 15-12, since a 3-1 victory on Nov. 4, 2004. That ended a run of 10 straight wins by the Hornets versus Eastern.

However, when head coach Miles Kydd was told about those streaks, he stated that his focus was, and is, not on the past.

“I didn’t know about those (streaks),” Kydd said. “For us, Sacramento State is another league match, one we feel we should win. Gonzaga is a regional rival, so that is an important match just for the sake we want to be considered the top team in the Inland Northwest.” (in head-to-head matches between EWU, Gonzaga, Washington State and Idaho in 2008, the Eagles and Idaho went 2-1, while the Bulldogs and Cougars finished 1-2).

Trio Earns 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.

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.

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.

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 on Aug. 29 with Denver in Fort Collins, Colo., 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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