Eagle volleyball defeats Big Sky champion Northern Arizona


Ivone Garza for The Easterner

Teammates react to Ashley Seiler diving for the ball

By Brandon Cline, Sports Editor

It took until October, but the EWU volleyball team recorded their first home match wins of the season, including a four-set win over the defending Big Sky Conference (BSC) champions, the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks.

The Eagles entered the weekend on a modest two-match losing streak, falling to the Northern Colorado Bears and the North Dakota Fighting Hawks each in four sets.

The Lumberjacks came into the match on October 6 with a 14-3 record, including a 4-0 start in Big Sky play. However, it was the Eagles who won the first set, coming back from a 16-19 deficit to win nine of the final 13 points to take the set.

It was the Eagles who lost a lead late in the second set, losing 25-21 after having a lead as large as 19-12 earlier in the set. But the Eagles responded with a solid third set, winning five of the last seven points to take a two sets to one lead over the Lumberjacks.

Northern Arizona jumped out to a quick 4-1 lead in the final set, but a 9-3 run by the Eagles gave EWU a 10-7 lead that was never relinquished, winning the match with a 25-21 fourth set win.

Junior Ashley Seiler and sophomore Ka’iulani Ahuna led the way for the Eagles with 18 kills each, while sophomore Taylor Larsen had 11 kills to go with her team-high .375 hitting percentage. Senior Sophie Miller recorded a team high in assists with 35, while also serving two aces and compiling 19 digs, also team highs.

“We kind of just went into the game thinking, ‘We only play them once, why not take it to them?’” said Seiler. “Our motto from last week to this week was to go out there and play for each other. At the end of the day, all that matters is the people you play with.”

The Eagles took on the Southern Utah Thunderbirds two days later to round a four-match homestand. The Thunderbirds headed into the match with a 2-14 record, starting Big Sky play 0-5.

EWU controlled much of the first set, going on an 18-11 run to win the set 25-20. Sets two and three were much of the same as the Eagles won the second set 25-17, and then went on a 12-5 run to close out the match, winning the third and final set 25-21.

“I’m proud of our team and what we are doing of late,” said head coach Michael King. “We could have played a little bit of a cleaner match, but I was really pleased with how we responded to the challenge in the third set, and I thought [Larsen] did a great job tonight with nine kills.”

Ahuna led the charge again for the Eagles, notching 15 kills with a .406 hitting percentage. Ahuna also recorded 11 digs, compiling her fourth-straight double-double, while Seiler recorded her third-straight with ten kills and 12 digs. Miller’s 20 assists means she’s recorded at least ten assists in all 15 matches this season.

Overall, the Eagles finished 2-2 on the homestand in their first home matches of the season. The Eagles started the 2016 campaign with 11 straight neutral site or road matches, going 7-4.

“Starting on the road in a way is a dream come true,” said Seiler. “It gives you that experience you need as you start a season, just getting used to the travel and what your body has to go through.”

The Eagles hit the road for four consecutive conference away matches, including contests against the Idaho State Bengals on October 13 and the Idaho Vandals on October 15.