Cheney, Wash. – The Eastern Washington University volleyball team is headed back to the Big Sky Conference Tournament for the first time in four years, clinching a spot behind a come-from-behind five-set win over visiting Montana State Friday night, Oct. 30.
EWU is one of three teams to secure spots in this season's league tournament, joining Northern Arizona and Idaho State, who claimed bids last night.
Eastern improves to 9-3 in Big Sky play and 14-9 overall while the loss drops Montana State to 1-11 in conference action and 3-17 overall.
Down 2-1 after the first three sets, the Eagles flipped a switch in the fourth frame. They hit .447 (18-1-38) en route to claiming the set in commanding fashion, 25-15, and force a decisive fifth set.
EWU raced out to an early 7-3 lead only to see the Bobcats claw back to tie the score at 8-8. MSU opened up a 10-9 lead on an Eastern attack error, and would lead by one point twice more down the stretch, but a kill from senior Allie Schumacher broke a 12-12 tie and gave the Eagles the push they needed.
A solo block from sophomore Chloe Weber set EWU up for match point, but a service error gave the ball back to Montana State. The visitors would do the same thing on their ensuing possession as the Bobcats' Libbey Fellows put too much on her serve attempt, sending it long and giving the win to the Eagles.
Schumacher had arguably her best match of the season Friday night, finishing with a season-best 23 kills while hitting .382 (23-2-55). She added seven digs and two blocks to her impressive stat line.
Senior Ryann Ensrud came up big for Eastern defensively, notching 27 digs, 15 of which came in the final two sets.
Sophomore Ashley Seiler came off the bench to record nine kills and nine digs while classmate Chloe Weber registered eight kills on 12 swings to go along with five blocks.
Eastern hit .297 for the match compared to Montana State's .262 clip. The Eagles held the Bobcats to hitting percentages of .143 and .130 in the fourth and fifth sets, respectively.
EWU finished with seven team blocks while MSU registered just two total rejections.
Eastern last qualified for the Big Sky Tournament in 2011, a span of four seasons. The Eagles' postseason drought was the second longest in the conference, trailing only Weber State, who last qualified for the league tournament in 2008.
Schumacher's 23 kills bring her within four of the 1,000-career kill plateau. The last time she had 20 or more kills was Sept. 2, 2014, against College of Charleston, a span of 46 matches.
Eastern will play its final home match of the regular season this Thursday, Nov. 5, against Northern Arizona. First serve is set for 6 p.m. PST, and the Eagles' four seniors will be honored prior to the contest.