Cheney, Wash. – The Eastern Washington University volleyball team dropped its first home match of the 2015 season Thursday night, Oct. 29, falling to visiting Montana in four sets in a Big Sky Conference match at Reese court.
Despite the setback, Eastern remains on the cusp of clinching a bid to the 2015 Big Sky Tournament. The Eagles are currently tied with Sacramento State for third place in the league standings with five matches remaining. Both Northern Arizona and Idaho State punched their respective tickets tonight, locking up two of the eight available bids.
The loss drops EWU to 8-3 in Big Sky play and 13-9 overall while Montana improves to 3-8 in league matches and 7-16 overall with the win.
After trading the opening two sets and engaging in a back-and-forth battle in the early stages of the third frame, momentum swung to the visitors, who scored three straight points to take an 18-15 lead. The Grizzles would score two more unanswered points after Eastern called timeout, opening up a five-point cushion, 20-15, late in the set.
The Eagles cut Montana's lead to three twice down the stretch, first at 21-18 and again at 24-21, but the Grizzlies got a kill from Hannah Sackett to secure the set and take a 2-1 lead into the fourth frame.
EWU again put up a fight early in the ensuing set, climbing out of a four-point hole to pull to within one, 16-15. It was at that point that UM got hot, scoring the next six points to take a 22-15 lead that proved too much for Eastern to overcome.
Sophomore Jessica Gilbert paced the Eagles with 12 kills on just 19 swings, hitting at a .579 clip on the night, and finished one dig shy of her first career double-double.
Seniors Alexis Wesley, Allie Schumacher and Ana Jakovljevic chipped in with eight kills apiece. Jakovljevic added three service aces and seven digs to her stat line while Schumacher tallied eight digs.
Sophomore Nicole Rigoni registered 22 assists, seven digs and a service ace.
EWU committed fewer errors across the board, but fell victim to a strong hitting performance, nine service aces and nine blocks from the Grizzlies. UM hit .231 for the match while Eastern swung at a .201 clip.
Eastern had just five service aces and five blocks compared to Montana's nine aces and nine rejections.
Quoting Coach King
"We weren't consistent enough tonight in that we played with too many highs and lows. It's always tough to win matches when you play like that."
The Eagles lost for the first time this season when committing fewer attack errors than their opponent. Eastern had 19 attack errors compared to Montana's 24 miscues. EWU was 13-0 when committing fewer attack errors prior to tonight's match.
Ensrud's 18 digs moved her into sole possession of seventh place on EWU's NCAA Division I career digs list. She now has 1,051 career digs.
Tonight's setback snapped a six-match home winning streak for Eastern dating back to its nonconference win over Corban on Sept. 17.
The Eagles are back in action tomorrow night, Oct. 30, when Montana State visits Reese Court. First serve is set for 6 p.m. PST.