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Eastern Oregon managed to put a match it would like to forget behind it and got back to its winning ways Saturday night.
Megan Bunn had nine kills to lead a balanced attack, Madisen Garlie added eight and the 11th-ranked Mountaineers swept Evergreen, 25-9, 25-18, 25-18, in Cascade Collegiate Conference action at Quinn Coliseum, one night after suffering a home sweep against Northwest.
“We tried a couple of different things,” head coach Kaki McLean-Morehead said. “I thought that they did a great job of executing. One of our goals going into tonight was to play together, to be resilient in certain situations, and they did a great job of doing that. Our serve-receive and defense was spot on. Offensively we did a much better job of executing, as well.”
Isabelle Statkus and Emily Nay both added seven kills. The Mountaineers also threw in a noticeable lineup change with Malia Mills, who has been a key back row player, spending time on the offensive attack. She finished with three kills and 10 digs, but brought a different look in her first front-row action since her freshman year.
“Malia Mills brings an intangible piece to the floor that we needed tonight,” McLean-Morehead said. “That’s the main reason she was there.”
Eastern, which never trailed, blew the first set wide open with an 9-0 run and never looked back. Bunn and Garlie teamed for a block, and Nay and Amy Arnzen followed with a block two points later for a 10-2 lead. An ace by Kiley McMurtrey later made it 14-2, and the lead grew to as much as 16 before Garlie capped it with a kill.
“We knew that we needed to play together,” Garlie said. “Instead of focusing on some bad stuff, we focused on all the good stuff (Saturday). We were able to play more as a team. Everyone did their own job. We were way better than (Friday).”
Garlie and Bunn had back-to-back kills in the second set for a 10-3 lead. It swelled to as much as eight on five occasions before Arnzen’s kill ended the set.
One more run in the third, this time a 6-1 spurt capped by a Garlie ace, made it 16-9 after the Geoducks had closed to within two. Nay’s kill later made it 21-11, and EOU rolled to the finish.
“Everything was a lot better. We came back well,” said setter Madison Pilon, who had 15 assists. “I think we were pressing a little too hard (on Friday).”
Abby Smith added 14 assists for EOU while McMurtrey had 18 digs. Garlie led the front line defense with five blocks.
Northwest stuns Eastern: Eastern Oregon was handed its second home loss of the season Friday, hitting a paltry .136 in a three-set loss to Northwest, 25-19, 25-23, 25-21.
The loss marks the first time since 2010 EOU has been beaten more than once on its home floor in one season.
“Our defense definitely did their job, but offensively we can’t keep making the same mistakes that were doing and that’s honestly what it is,” McLean-Morehead said. “When our pin hitters aren’t hitting too far in the positive, it doesn’t help us, it hinders us. We have to find a way to be better in those situations.”
Garlie led the Mountaineers with 12 kills and three blocks, but was the only EOU attacker in double figures in kills. Eastern was also hurt by 23 attack errors. Bunn added eight kills and Amanda Miller had seven. Arnzen led the defense at the net with four blocks.
McMurtrey led the back line with 17 digs. Pion, who had a team-high 18 assists, also had nine digs. Smith added nine assists.
EOU (19-6 overall, 13-3 CCC) enters a crucial final stretch to the season Friday when it travels to Corban, which is tied with EOU for first in the conference.
“It’s not going to be easy to go there and win,” McLean-Morehead said. “It’s just not. Especially when they haven’t lost at home. It’s going to be a tough one. We have to be up to the challenge and we’re going to work all week on rising to the occasion.”
Added Pilon: “What we need to do well is play together. That’s a big thing. Having that feel of being one. The unity for us is a key.”