Malia Mills had eight kills and added nine digs to lead a balanced attack as No. 13 Eastern Oregon honored its six seniors and finished off the regular season with a sweep of Walla Walla, 25-18, 25-10, 25-13, Saturday in Cascade Collegiate Conference action at Quinn Coliseum.
Two more of those seniors, Madisen Garlie and Emily Nay, both contributed seven kills. Amanda Miller had six.
It was the final regular-season match inside Quinn Coliseum for the six seniors — Mills, Garlie, Nay, Miller, Isabelle Statkus and Amy Arnzen — four of whom have been with EOU their entire careers and helped leave an indelible mark on the program.
“Honestly, I can’t say enough,” head coach Kaki McLean-Morehead said. “For one, that freshmen group is the first group that made it to the national tournament. That’s the first time that we won the regular season. That’s the first time we hosted the conference tournament. That’s a huge thing. To have that (many) impact people all be a part of the program and all play integral pieces for all four years. That’s a hard thing to replace. Honestly, I can’t thank them enough for the service they’ve given to our program.”
Mills, who has primarily been a defensive back row player her entire EOU career, has actually contributed to the attack in recent weeks. Mills was having an impact up front again Saturday night.
“Playing front row is pretty fun. It’s something a little bit different, but I love it,” she said.
She had four kills in the first set, including one to give EOU a 23-15 lead and another five points later to end the set, then followed with three more in the second and teamed with Garlie for a block and a 24-9 lead late in the set.
“I think it’s important that she went out tonight swinging,” McLean-Morehead said. “She did a great job.”
In fact, all six seniors played a big role Saturday, recording 37 of the team’s 42 kills.
The Eastern freshmen chipped in, as well. Setter Madison Pilon had a match-high 22 assists while throwing in four aces. Kiley McMurtrey added 15 digs and three aces and Abby Smith had eight assists and three aces.
The victory secured EOU’s spot in a three-way tie for second place in the CCC. EOU (21-8 overall, 15-5 CCC) settled for the No. 3 seed headed into this week’s conference tournament, and will host Northwest Christian Tuesday night.
The Beacons are a team EOU swept in both meetings, but one McLean-Morehead said will come in ready to fight.
“They’re a tough team, and they’re very scrappy,” she said. “They’ll come in expecting to beat us just the same as we’re expecting to beat them.”
The key to getting a third win, and a trip to the semifinals for EOU, will be execution.
“We have to play our game,” Mills said. “We know what to do. We have to pass well, we have to set well and we have to hit well.”