It was a celebration nearly a year in the making.
Eastern Washington’s volleyball team has endured a long, difficult season, but the Eagles broke through last week with a 3-0 sweep over Sacramento State. The victory ended a 22-match losing streak this season and a 26-match streak dating to Nov. 5, 2011.
“It was pure joy (in the locker room),” said interim coach Lisa Westlake, who replaced Miles Kydd when he resigned in late August.
“They were jumping all over. It’s almost like a proud parent when you see it come together for your kid and enjoying what they’ve been working to do.”
The Eagles liked the feeling so much that they did it again in their next match, sweeping Montana. The week ended with a loss to Montana State, but EWU (2-23, 2-12 Big Sky) was happy to leave the ranks of winless D-I teams (Grambling, Savannah State, Howard) and move into a tie with Weber State for 10th in the conference standings.
“We’ve played well for 15 points (in games), but we just haven’t finished,” Westlake said. “The challenge was to be able to do it longer. Through practice and them starting to believe and buy in to everything, we thought it would pay off one day.”
Westlake said it’s been a challenging year for her, but even more so for the players.
“That was the biggest challenge, just keeping the girls motivated,” she said. “Practices have been good, the motivation is still there, the work ethic … that’s what got us the two wins.”
Cougars return home: Washington State (10-14, 0-12 Pac-12) tries to break into the conference win column at home against Colorado tonight (Pac-12 Networks) and Utah on Friday. The Cougars haven’t won since defeating Air Force on Sept. 15, but they pushed No. 1 Stanford to five sets 10 days ago when the Cardinal were ranked second.
“We need to be able to run all of our hitters and I know we struggled at Colorado (in a 3-0 loss) with our passing,” coach Jen Greeny said. “That’s something we’re going to have to be able to do.”
NIC at regionals: Third-seeded North Idaho College (20-4, 6-4 SWAC) faces No. 6 Colorado Northwestern on Friday to open the Region 18 Tournament in Twin Falls, Idaho. Second-seeded Salt Lake, 2-0 versus NIC, awaits the NIC-CNCC winner.
“We need two wins to head to nationals,” coach Kandice Gregorak said. “We have to be on our best game to beat Salt Lake if we end up winning our first match.”
In the latest NJCAA poll, NIC was No. 8, Salt Lake No. 5 and top-seeded College of Southern Idaho (27-1, 10-0) No. 3.
Notes: Gonzaga (9-15, 1-10 WCC), which has lost eight straight, is one game in front of last-place Portland, which visits GU on Nov. 15. At the top of the WCC, No. 17 BYU (21-2, 9-2) and No. 18 San Diego (17-4, 9-2) battle tonight for first place on ESPNU. … Idaho (11-13, 9-5 WAC) has dropped three of five to slip into third place. Two of those losses were in five sets. UI has played a school-record 10 five-set matches this season, winning just three. … Whitworth (9-12, 5-9 Northwest Conference) closes the season with road matches against Pacific and Linfield. The Pirates won twice last week to move into a tie for sixth place. … Community Colleges of Spokane (24-8, 8-3 NWAACC East) has a big week with home matches tonight versus Columbia Basin (SWX) and Friday versus East-leading Blue Mountain (37-2, 11-0). Blue Mountain’s only losses were against NJCAA power Southern Idaho.