November 13, 2006

Eagles Bring Hot Streak into Championship

Nov. 13, 2006

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The Eastern Washington University volleyball squad (18-8, 10-6 Big Sky Conference) brings a hot streak into the Big Sky Conference Championship that is unsurpassed by any league team. The Eagles have won 11-of-12 contests (10-of-11 in Big Sky play) and have stormed back from a 0-5 start to claim third place. Eastern has now finished in third place or higher in 11 consecutive seasons.

The Eagles will play another team on a hot streak in the quarterfinals in Weber State. After starting the season 4-23 (1-11 BSC), the Wildcats won their last five contests, including a winner-take-all battle in Flagstaff over Northern Arizona, 30-28, 31-29, 30-22, on Saturday (Nov. 11).

If Eastern is to advance to the semifinals, it will take on second-place Portland State (19-6, 14-2 BSC) on Friday. The Vikings have seen their only two BSC regular-season losses come to EWU and regular-season champion Sacramento State (28-5, 15-1 BSC).

The championship will see first serve occur at 7 p.m. on Saturday. All matches are at the Hornets Nest on the Sacramento State University campus.

The Eagles and Hornets have met for the Big Sky title in each of the last six seasons with Eastern winning in 2001 by 28-30, 30-22, 30-25, 30-27 scores in Sacramento. Three of the meetings have occured in California's capital city, while the other three took place in Cheney.

In the 2006 regular season, the Hornets won convincingly, 30-20, 30-23, 30-21, in Sacramento, while Eastern gave Sac State all it could handle in the return contest in Cheney, falling in a heartbreaker, 26-30, 30-26, 32-34, 30-24, 17-15.

Overall, Eastern has won the tournament title on two occasions (2001 and 1989). The Eagles have qualified for the NCAA Tournament four times (2001, 1999, 1998 and 1989).

Eastern Washington has won 3-of-4 conference quarterfinals contests, including the last three (2005, 2001 and 2000, with the loss coming in 1996). The Eagles have won their last six semifinal contests and are 8-3 all-time in that round of the tournament. In the title contest all-time, EWU is 2-6.

All tickets can be purchased the day of the event at the Hornets Nest on the Sacramento State campus. Cost per day for Thursday and Friday is $8 for adults, $5 for students, faculty and staff of Big Sky institutions, as well as youth ages 3-17. Garnering entrance to watch the championship match on Saturday will cost $10 and $5, respectively.

If you cannot make it to Sacramento, you can listen to audio coverage of every match of the Championship free of charge at www.hornetsports.com/audio.

You can also view every match on your computer via www.bigskytv.org. The cost for the tournament is $24.95. If you wish to purchase a package of all of Eastern's men's and women's basketball and volleyball contests played at Big Sky schools in 2006-07, that cost is $59.95, while to watch every Big Sky sporting event in those sports, as well as football, is $99.95.

TEAM HIGHLIGHTS

• In the third place tie-breaking match, a 3-0 victory over Montana (Nov. 11), the Eastern Washington University volleyball team (18-8, 10-6 BSC) has now earned the third seed or higher in the Big Sky Conference tournament for the 11th consecutive season. The victory makes it 11 wins out of their last 12 matches for the Eagles; the last loss came to Sacramento State back on Oct. 28.

• The field for the BSC tournament is now set for this week in Sacramento, Calif. Third seed Eastern will take on Weber State, a team it has beaten twice this season: Sept. 30 at Weber State 3-0 and Oct. 13 in Cheney, 3-1. Head Coach Wade Benson holds an impressive 12-3 record over WSU in his seventh season at EWU. The Wildcats have won their last five matches to earn the sixth seed in the tournament. These two teams will meet in the first quarterfinal match Thursday (Nov. 16) at 5 p.m. Quarterfinal 2 will be played at 7:30 p.m. between fifth seed Northern Colorado and fourth seed Montana. Friday (Nov. 17) at 5 p.m., second seeded Portland State will take on the highest remaining seed, and in semifinal number two at 7:30 p.m., number one seed Sacramento State will take on the lowest remaining seed. The winners of both the semifinal matches will play in the Championship match Saturday (Nov. 18) at 7 p.m. The winner of that match will then advance to the NCAA Tournament that begins Nov. 30th at campus sites to be determined. Sacramento State has won the Big Sky Conference tournament in each of the last four years, including last year's 3-1 victory over Eastern Washington. EWU has reached the title match the past six seasons and has earned NCAA Tournament berths in 1989, 1998, 1999 and 2001.

• The Nov. 11 match against Montana made it the second time this season that Eastern has beaten the Grizzlies. The Eagles also defeated them in Montana 3-0 on Oct. 7. Mandy Daniels had 21 digs to lead the Eagles. Addie Webster recorded yet another double double, her 11th straight, with 10 kills and 10 digs. Brittney Page led all players with 15 kills.

• Eastern honored five seniors in the match against Montana. Stephanie Baker and Raelynn Chaffee are graduating after playing one season with the Eagle volleyball team. Baker is a transfer from Columbia Basin Community College in Pasco, Wash. As of Nov. 13th, she has 43 career digs as an Eagle and is hitting .283, which ranks her seventh in the Big Sky Conference. Chaffee, from Boise, Idaho, switched to volleyball after playing four years for Eastern's baskeball program. In her year with the volleyball team she has tallied 55 kills and seven blocks. Chrystal Johnson and Ashley Gandauli transferred together two years ago from the College of Southern Idaho. Together at Southern Idaho they helped lead them to a 40-3 record their sophomore year and 41 victories thus far at EWU. With at least one match remaining in her career as an Eagle, Johnson has already provided Eastern with solid numbers offensively, with 407 kills and 183 digs. She also has 30 career assists and 11 service aces. Gandauli, from Honolulu, Hawaii, has 95 career digs as an Eagle. In 2005 she had 10 assists or more in five different matches. Brittney Page is the only four-year player in this senior class. She actually red-shirted one year and has been with the program a total of five years. Twice this year Page has been named player of the week, and has been atop the leaders in the Big Sky Conference throughout the year in hitting percentage and kills. So far in her career, Page has 386 digs, 25 solo blocks, 78 assists and a .249 hitting percentage.

• Eastern also earned its second victory of the year over Montana State on Nov 9. The Eagles swept the Bobcats 3-0. EWU also defeated them Oct. 5, 3-1 in Bozeman, Mont. Webster and Johnson recorded 12 kills apiece and Page added ten for the Eagles.

• With the victory over Northern Arizona (Nov. 4), Eastern clinched a spot in the Big Sky Conference tournament.

• Entering 2006, the Eagles have finished third or better in the Big Sky regular season each of the last 10 years and have reached the title match six-straight years. They also have had an impressive streak of five-straight seasons of winning at least 20 matches, and at least 20 wins in eight of the last nine years.

• Sacramento State snapped EWU's seven-match winning streak Oct. 28, as the Hornets beat the Eagles 3-2 in Cheney.

• The Eagles are ranked 25th in the nation in attendance averaging 1,297 in their first seven home matches of the 2006 season.

• As a team, Eastern is leading the Big Sky in hitting at .242, kills (16.11), and assists (14.61), as of Nov. 13. The Eagles are ranked second in opponent hitting percentage (.155), digs (17.68), and service aces (1.76); and fifth in blocks (2.33) per game.

• In the last eight seasons entering the 2006 season, Eastern was 71-7 at home for a .910 winning percentage. Eastern has ranked in the top 30 nationally in attendance each of those seasons. In 2005, the Eagles were ranked 29th in the nation with 1,110 fans per game.

INDIVIDUAL HIGHLIGHTS

• As of Nov. 13, Brittney Page is fourth in the Big Sky in hitting percentage at .311. Kerri Beck is ranked fifth at .286, and Stephanie Baker is seventh (.283). Page is also sixth in the conference with 3.76 kills per game.

Addie Webster ranks fifth overall in the conference with 3.77 kills and 0.33 service aces per game. Webster is also ranked tenth for digs per game (3.57).

• Freshman Amanda Yausie ranks fourth in the Big Sky Conference with 9.51 assists per game. She is also third in service aces per game (0.37).

Mandy Daniels is ranked seventh in the conference with 4.20 digs per game.

Brittney Page, a senior outside hitter from Vernon, B.C., was named the Big Sky Conference Player of the Week for matches played Oct. 9-16. Page helped lead the Eagles to victories that week over Idaho, Weber State and Portland State. She finished the week with 45 kills, 24 digs and 18 total blocks. On the opening week of the season back in August, Page was also awarded this honor as she led the Eagles to a 3-1 start.

Addie Webster was named Big Sky Player of the Week on Oct. 9 after leading the Eagles to two victories in Montana. Webster finished the weekend with 43 kills, 36 digs, four blocks and a .378 hitting percentage.

Kristen Ponce and Brittney Page were named to the Best Western Classic Inn All-Tournament Team in Wichita, Kan., on Aug. 26, after the Eagles defeated Syracuse, Louisiana Tech, and Texas-San Antonio. Eastern lost 3-0 to Wichita State in the championship match.

• On Aug. 29, Eastern's Brittney Page was named co-Big Sky Player of the Week along with Lindsay Haupt of Sacramento State. Page helped lead the Eagles to a 3-1 record in the opening week while hitting .358 with 51 kills and 13 blocks.

• Head Coach Wade Benson entered the 2006 season with a 134-46 (.744 winning percentage) record in six seasons with the Eagles. He entered the year 68-18 (.791) in Big Sky play with three Big Sky regular-season titles. In the last four seasons alone, Benson's teams had compiled a 48-8 Big Sky record.

COMMENTS FROM HEAD COACH Wade Benson

• On Clinching the Third Spot in the Big Sky Conference Tournament: "We feel great. We are very happy to keep our winning streak alive and play well at home. Beating Montana twice, both 3-0, were good matches for us. It made us feel good about how we are playing the game. It sends us off to the Big Sky Championships feeling confident."

• On Winning 11 out of the last 12 Matches: "It is a good thing. I think you can get over confident though, but I would rather be on a winning streak than a losing streak. We just have to work hard this week and continue to get better. We are still making too many hitting errors so we need to take a look at those errors and work on them the next three days."

• On Weber State: "We are going to watch film and see if they are doing anything different. Any team is capable of beating any team. We have a lot of respect for Weber and we thought they did an excellent job of turning their season around. They are on a high too, are they are a scary team. We aren't overlooking them by any means."

• On Senior Night: "The whole night went really well. The crowd was excellent, the match went well and the seniors put their emotions in check for a while which is very hard to do on senior night. They all played well. We had an excellent time afterwards with our senior night gathering and I don't think it could be any better than it was."

• On this Year's Graduating Seniors: "All of the seniors have been productive. Stephanie and Raelynn really helped us out coming into the program and have done an excellent job of figuring things out pretty quickly and have been great team players. Chrystal and Ashley were junior college transfers, so four of the five people have been here two years or less, which is odd for a senior class. I am so proud of Ashley for being the team player that she is. Chrystal has moved around and been very dynamic which is huge for us. They will be a big loss. Brittney has come on super strong in her five years here. She has always been a player that cares about the program first and we are going to miss her a lot."

• On Being Ranked Weekly in National Attendance and What the Fans Mean to the Team: "It is nice to have home-court advantage, and the fans have been great in that sense. The super fans have been unbelievable and they have made it a lot of fun. The girls like playing for them and they are much appreciated, like all of the fans who come out and support us."

• On Brittney Page Being Named BSC Player of the Week Oct. 9-16: "She has really matured as a player and I am very proud of her. It has been a work in progress with Brittney, as she would probably tell you. She has come a long way and is more disciplined and is leading the team by how she is playing. She is extremely consistent which is what we need right now and has been a huge factor to the winning streak that we have been on."

• On Addie Webster being named BSC Player of the Week Oct. 2-9: "She has been steady and that is big for us because we need consistent numbers from her. She put up huge numbers last week at Montana State and Montana and settled in this week. She probably didn't have the greatest hitting performance against Portland State, but she matured in the fact that she passed, served and blocked really well, and that is a great sign for Addie."

LINKS

• EWU Women's Volleyball Information - http://www.goeags.com

• Big Sky Conference Women's Volleyball - http://www.bigskyconf.com/sport_front.asp?sportid=107

• NCAA Women's Volleyball - http://www.ncaasports.com/volleyball/womens

• Story on Former Eagle Volleyball Player Janelle Ruen, now on the AVP Beach Volleyball Tour - http://goeags.cstv.com/sports/w-volley/spec-rel/081506aaa.html

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