The No. 21 Eastern Oregon Mountaineers volleyball team overcame a tough first set to extend its winning streak and stay in the top tier of the Cascade Collegiate Conference Saturday night.
Megan Bunn had 17 kills and 11 digs for her ninth double-double, Hailee Ackerman added 11 kills and EOU earned its fifth straight victory, topping the Northwest Eagles, 24-26, 25-8, 25-12, 25-22 at Quinn Coliseum.
The win kept EOU in a tie for second with College of Idaho in CCC play.
“It’s the growth,” Head Coach Kaki McLean-Morehead said of the team’s play of late. “We’re working on keeping things simple and (are) getting really good at those simple things in practice every single day. They really are embracing the process, as corny as that sounds. They are improving every single day and every single week.”
EOU, which had won its previous four matches in straight sets, saw any hopes for a fifth consecutive sweep vanish during the first set Saturday. Eastern fell behind as much as 9-3 early, and although the Mountaineers briefly took the lead late — the last time at 24-23 — they never found a rhythm.
But the team looked entirely different during a dominant second and third set. EOU never trailed and was never threatened as it took an 11-2 second-set lead on a block by Ackerman, Taylor Tibbetts and Cambree Scott, and later led by scores of 18-3, 21-5 and 24-6. Northwest at times looked fazed while EOU was seemingly able to dig or block every kill attempt, pound the ball with authority and serve almost flawlessly.
“It started off a little rough, but we figured it out and started playing as a team in the second, third and fourth sets,” Bunn said. “It was communication too — things we could change easily.”
The Mountaineers were nearly as strong in the third, quickly building a 14-4 lead on a kill by Bunn. Northwest briefly got within six, but Eastern responded with a 7-2 scoring run to retake command.
The Eagles pushed EOU in the fourth set, a set that saw 11 ties and six lead changes. Bunn gave EOU a 20-19 lead with a kill, but Northwest responded to take a 21-20 edge on a kill by Abigail Broussard. EOU scored the next four points, the last two on blocks by Tibbetts and Allyson Crisp, and two points later Bunn finished the match with a kill.
While Bunn and Ackerman led the offense, McLean-Morehead said the attack is getting distributed better, and that was the case Saturday. Tibbetts added eight kills, Kaci Cox had six and Scott chipped in with five.
“More hitters are finally getting involved rather than us just being so dependent on Hailee and Megan,” the coach said. “That’s the most important (factor). We can’t ride two hitters all the way to the conference tournament. We have to do a better job of distributing the ball, and they are doing that.”
Sarah Carpenter dished out 22 assists and added six aces for EOU, and Kiley McMurtrey led the back line with 18 digs. Crisp and Tibbetts added five and four block assists, respectively, which is another area McLean-Morehead said is improving.
“That’s basically all we’ve been working on in practice, so it’s improved a lot,” Bunn quipped. “Just communicating (with) each other is the biggest thing.”
Eastern (10-4 overall, 5-1 CCC) travels to Eugene to face Northwest Christian Friday.
EOU sweeps Evergreen
Bunn had 16 kills to again lead the Eastern Oregon offense as the Mountaineers rolled to a three-set win over Evergreen Friday, 25-22, 25-15, 25-17, handing the Geoducks their first loss in CCC play.
Ackerman joined Bunn in double figures with 11 kills, while Tibbetts added six kills and three block assists. Jet Taylor led EOU with four block assists — all in the third set — including teaming with Bunn on blocks for the final two points of the match.
Madison Pilon led Eastern with 24 assists, Carpenter had 12 assists and McMurtrey collected 15 digs. Bunn added 10 digs for her eighth double-double.