Eagles volleyball closes with match losses at Southern Utah
Eastern Washington now prepares for first Big Sky tournament since 2016
Last updated 4/1/2021 at 5:39pm
CEDAR CITY, Utah – Eastern Washington University’s volleyball team wrapped up their regular season schedule with a pair of match losses on the road against Southern Utah University – including a tightly contested, back-and-forth five-setter in the finale Sunday.
“We had some really good pieces, we just fell a little short,” Eagles head coach Leslie Flores-Cloud said of her team’s effort.
Eastern took advantage of early Thunderbird errors and a defense that held the hosts to a .000 hitting percentage to take the first set 25-17. A 5-0 run put EWU ahead at 11-8, and advantage the eventually stretched — through the hitting of Ashlyn Blotzer — to 23-16 and the eventual win.
It was Southern Utah that held all of the momentum in set two, hitting .387 with 16 kills and four errors, while holding EWU to .088 with 10 kills and seven errors in the win 25-16. The Eagles rebounded in set three, however, going on a 6-0 after a setter’s dump from Lindsey Russell to open a 21-12 lead en route to the 25-17 win.
Indicative of the match’s intensity, Southern Utah responded in set four, opening up leads of 8-1 and 12-5. Four quick points from Maya McClellan and Blotzer got Eastern to 12-9, eventually tying the set at 20-20. Four more ties took place before the Thunderbirds prevailed 26-24.
Southern Utah maintained that momentum into the final set, jumping to a 4-0 lead, extending it to 8-3 and then 12-6 before eventually winning 15-9 to take the match 3-2.
McClellan (13), Blotzer (12) and Sage Brustad (10) lead Eastern in kills while Russell collected a double-double with 27 assists and 14 digs, recording a serving ace as well. Eastern hit .169 with 49 kills and 22 errors and 160 total attempts while the Thunderbirds hit just .120, 55 kills with 34 errors on 175 attempts.
Serving proved to be the decider in the match, with Southern Utah notching 11 aces to Eastern’s five.
“We did an awesome job of coming back in set four, we were down and made a comeback and that was good to see,” Flores-Cloud said. “Ashlyn Blotzer and Maya McClellan led us offensively, and they also did a great job blocking for us.”
Two days earlier the story was a bit different as the Eagles were swept 3-0 by the Thunderbirds, 25-21, 25-20 and 25-20.
The first set was tight, with Eastern opening leads of 11-10, 16-14 before Southern Utah tied it at 17. A 4-0 run from the Eagles gave them a 21-17 advantage, but the Thunderbirds responded with an 8-0 run for the win.
Southern Utah opened a 7-3 lead in the second set before the Eagles rebounded to tie it at 7. A 4-0 run from the Thunderbirds restored the four-point lead, but Eastern wiped it clean and tied it again at 14. The set was again tied at 19 before Southern Utah regained its momentum with a 4-0 and a 2-0 run to capture the win.
The third set was Eastern’s best statistically, hitting .323 with 14 kills and four errors on 31 attempts. But, Southern Utah hit .387 with 14 kills and two errors on 31 total attempts and held the momentum most of the way for the win.
“We needed to pick up our serve-receive tonight,” Flores-Cloud said. “We continued to improve our side-out percentage and in our offense, we improved from basically hitting zero to hitting over three hundred in the third set. That helped a lot, but we missed our opportunities by not being settled in in serve-receive.”
Brustad led the Eagles with 11 kills, hitting .360 with two errors on 25 attempts to go with five digs. Russell and Ana Paula Zandona split the setting duties with 13 assists each. In Russell’s first match back from injury since Feb. 15, she had nine digs and a service ace. Noa Torio led the Eagles with 10 digs.
Eastern Washington finished the regular season 6-11 overall and 5-11 in Big Sky play. Eastern now sets its sights on the 2021 Big Sky Spring Championships.
The Eagles qualified for the tournament for the first time since the 2016 season and await seeding. The championships take place from March 31 – April 2 in Greeley, Colo.
John McCallum can be reached at [email protected]