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Volleyball News & Highlights

November 09, 2012

Eagles Roll into Second Round

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Erin Hillman finished with 11 kills and no errors in her NCAA Tournament debut.

SALISBURY, Md.- Even with the graduation of five seniors from last year's Final Four squad, Eastern University Volleyball looked right at home in a three-set NCAA Tournament win over Baruch College. Erin Hillman made the most of her NCAA Tournament debut with an impressive 11 kill effort. The first-year outside hitter hit .688 for the match.

Eastern has not lost NCAA Tournament opener since 2000, but this year's squad, with three freshman starters, figured to have some early jitters in their tournament opener. The No. 21 Eagles did not, it turns out, suffer from any early match uneasiness. Led by 2012 Freedom Conference Player of the Year Kearby Benak, the Eagles cruised to a 25-7 win in the opening set.

Eastern was up 7-3 in the opening set when Morgan Butterbaugh stepped back to serve. Thirteen serves and two Baruch timeouts later, the Eagles led 20-3. Benak led the attack with five of her ten kills in the opening set. Benak finished the day with 994 career kills. The Bearcats (24-11) strung together a couple points, but the impressive run of offense on Butterbaugh's serve all but ended the first set.

"I thought Morgan played really well," Head Coach Mark Birtwistle commented after the match, "she had a nice dig early to get into it." Butterbaugh finished tied for team-high honors in digs with nine.

Baruch jumped to an early 7-4 lead in the second set. They held that edge until Hillman buried a huge cross-court kill to tie the match at 12-12 and Benak found a hole with an ace. The junior from Houston, Texas continued serving until the Eagles led 16-12. Hillman had four kills in the set. Lauren Sproles knocked down six of her eight kills in the second set. First yaer setter Rikki Schlager finished the set with a well-placed tip for a kill.

The two teams exchanged points early in the third set before the Eagles pulled away on a strong service run from Kelly Groff. Groff and fellow senior Rachel Wenger were playing in their 11th NCAA Tournament match. Groff finished with three aces and nine digs. Hillman had five kills in the set and Katrina Pisch had three of her six kills in the final set.

"You can see how good Erin can be," Birtwistle said of his freshman standout, "she put the ball in the court." Hillman's .688 hitting percentage is a career best for the 2012 Freedom Rookie of the Year.  Led by Hillman's efficient outing and a .400 day from Pisch (which actually drops her hitting percentage slightly), the Eagles hit .323. Schlager finished with 31 assists.

The Eagles will need to be efficient tomorrow as well. They will face Commonwealth Champion Stevenson for the second time this year. The Mustangs (36-2) topped the Eagles in five sets at the end of September. Eastern hit only .161 in that contest. 

Eastern and Stevenson will play at 3:30, and Salisbury will take on Richard Stockton at 6:00. Interactive Bracket

In addition to Benak closing in on 1000 career kills, Groff is 34 digs short of 2000 for her career. The senior libero had 38 digs the last time the two squads met.

Box Score

Updated: Friday, 09 November 2012

Coaches

Mark Birtwistle

Mark Birtwistle

Coach Birtwistle has won more than 600 games and 16 Conference Championships as Eastern's Volleyball Coach

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