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Volleyball News & Highlights

November 11, 2012

Eagles Stopped at Salisbury

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Erin Hillman was named to the Regional All-Tournament team. The first-year outside hitter had double-figure kills in each of Eastern's three NCAA Tourrnament games.

SALISBURY, Md.- It was supposed to be a rebuilding year. After graduating five seniors, including a pair of 4-time All-Americans, those outside the Eastern University volleyball program expected a drop-off from the success of the past four years. The No.21 Eagles fell behind by two sets but rallied to force a fifth set before falling to No. 13 Salisbury (37-3) in the Mid-Atlantic Region final.

Erin Hillman and Lauren Sproles each had a dozen kills to lead the Eagles in the tough five-set loss. 

The host Sea Gulls jumped to an early 11-3 lead in the opening set and held on to take the first frame by a 25-16 margin. Eastern's struggles started with serve-receive. The bigger Sea Gulls served aggressively and put the Eagles on the defensive. 

Eastern jumped to a 7-3 lead in the second set, but the hosts, with a vocal home crowd behind them, gained control of the match with a run of points on serve. Though the Eagles committed several hitting errors in the set, many of those errors originated with a pass that forced the Eastern hitters into predictable positions.

After grabbing a 17-11 lead on four straight serves from Kelly Viera, the Sea Gulls held on for a 25-19 win in the second set.

The young Eagles, who at times had four freshmen on the floor, jumped out to a good start in the third set as well. Eastern led 19-11 and seemed poised to put the set away, but the Sea Gulls battled back on another strong run of serves to tie the set at 21-21.

Rachel Wenger, one of two seniors on the Eastern squad, then made her mark on the match. She finished a slide for a 22-21 lead. She then slammed home an overpass for a two-point lead, and combined with Sproles for a block to give the Eagles a set point. Sproles powered home the final shot of the set for a 25-22 win.

The Eagles seemed to gain confidence from taking the set, and they led from wire-to-wire in the fourth set. Led by Kearby Benak's six kills in the set and Hillman's five kills on seven swings, the Eagles hit an impressive .333 in taking the set 25-19. 

After the two sides traded points early in the fourth set, the hosts scored four straight points on the serve of Sarah Hall to grab an 8-4 edge. Two of those points came on service aces. The Eagles were only able to score one more point on serve, and the Sea Gulls took the short set 15-9.

Wenger finished the match with eight kills. She recorded 970 kills for her career. Fellow senior Kelly Groff was credited with 20 digs. Eastern's career record holder for digs finishes her career with 1999. She eclipsed 500 digs in each of her last three seasons. Only two other players in Eastern history have had one season with 500 digs.

Benak and Hillman were named to the All-Tournament team. Hillman recorded 35 kills in her first three NCAA Tournament games. Ashlyn Tapley led the Sea Gulls with 17 kills in the match.

Salisbury advances to Holland, Mich. for the National Finals. 

Box Score

Updated: Sunday, 11 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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