September 25, 2001 11:00 pm

By Pat Perkins

Observer Staff Writer

Down two games to none, the Eastern Oregon volleyball team had the makings of a comeback Tuesday night.

They had just rallied from a five-point deficit in the third game against Albertson to take a 29-23 lead. And with rally scoring, any mistake by Albertson would give the game to the Mountaineers.

The Coyotes made no mistakes. They scored eight straight points and wrapped up a 30-22, 30-25, 31-29 Cascade Collegiate Conference victory at Quinn Coliseum.

We have no killer instinct, Eastern Oregon coach Sharon Campbell said. We get timid and expect someone else to do the stuff we have to do. Timid play just sends you to the locker room early.

What was surprising was that Easterns comeback in that third game was built on the aspects that could have won the game. The Mountaineers used strong defense to dig out some tough attacks by Albertsons front row.

Down 17-15, Eastern (5-6 overall, 3-4 conference) outscored Albertson 8-1, although five of those points came off Coyote errors. At one point, late in the game, Eastern scored four straight, including two kills by Elaine McKinstry.

Then the end came. Albertsons Kristyn Price had one of her game-high 18 kills, then Laura Solberg served an ace that forced Campbell to call her last timeout.

Jessie Lassen and Price each had two kills to tie the game. Then Solberg served two aces that won it.

Our problems are more mental than physical, Campbell said.

The match was grim from the start. Albertson (7-4, 5-1) built a 14-3 lead in the first game.

We had a lousy practice yesterday, and a lousy warmup, Campbell said. We came out like we practiced the last 24 hours.

Eastern led 20-18 in the second game but made too many errors in the late going to have a chance to win.

Sara Kirby led the Mountaineers with 16 kills and three serving aces. McKinstry had 10 kills.

Eastern next plays a single match Friday against Warner Pacific in Portland.