Eagles volleyball soars to 4-0 record in conference


Photo by Melanie Flint

Despite roadblocks, volleyball started the season strong. Sophomore Nicole Rigoni sets ball for senior Alexis Wesley.

By Brandon Cline, Sports Editor

The amazing turnaround from last season continues for the EWU volleyball team, as it recorded its second consecutive weekend sweep to move to 4-0 in conference play and 9-6 overall.

The Eagles traveled to Cedar City, Utah on Oct. 1 to face off against the Southern Utah Thunderbirds, who were 1-1 in conference and 10-5 overall, their first road conference match of the season. After winning the opening set, 25-22, the Eagles dropped their next set, 22-25, the first set they’ve dropped since a 3-1 loss to the University of Hawaii on Sept. 12.

The Eagles bounced back in the next two sets, winning both, 25-19, and moving to 3-0 in conference play. Senior Ana Jakovljevic led the Eagles with a season-high 17 kills, while senior Ryann Ensrud’s 28 digs were double of what her previous season highs were.

“[Ensrud] had a great night defensively and dug some great attacks, allowing us to run our offense,” said interim head coach Michael King.

King also highlighted the Eagles’ blocking against the Thunderbirds, and for good reason. EWU compiled 13.5 blocks on the night, 10 of which came from Jessica Gilbert, compared to Southern Utah’s six blocks.

Thunderbirds head coach Craig Choate was complimentary of the Eagles, telling Southern Utah Media Relations that “the way Eastern played tonight is the way I aspire us to play.”

It was a quick turnaround for the Eagles following the victory, as they took on the Idaho Vandals, who stood at 1-2 in conference and 4-11 overall, two days later at Reese Court. Like they had done in their last four matches, the Eagles jumped out and won the first set, 25-21. They built up a 19-10 lead in the first set, and were able to withstand an 11-6 Idaho run to close the set.

The Eagles were very efficient in the second set, grabbing an 11-6 lead early on and coasting to a 25-19 victory, giving them a commanding two-sets-to-none lead over the Vandals.

With a 20-11 lead in set three, the Eagles withstood a furious Idaho rally, finishing off the set and the match, 25-22, on Jakovljevic’s 11th kill, a match-high.

“Give a lot of credit to Idaho,” said King. “They handled our serving very well and forced us to have to do some things differently offensively. Our team was able to make some adjustments, and came through with the win.”

The win vaulted EWU to the top of the North Division standings, ahead of 3-1 North Dakota, whose only loss to a conference opponent was to the Eagles. The Idaho State Bengals are the only other undefeated team in the Big Sky, sitting atop the South Division at 4-0. The two teams meet once during the season, on Oct. 22 in Pocatello, Idaho.

What’s Next: The Eagles stay in the cozy confines of Reese Court this weekend, where they take on the Sacramento State Hornets (3-1, 16-3) on Oct. 8 and the Portland State Vikings (1-3, 5-11) on Oct. 10. Both matches are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.