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Volleyball News & Highlights

September 28, 2013

Eagles Take Down Two Top-25 Teams


Lauren Sproles earned CNU Invitational tournament MVP honors this weekend.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va.--It's not every day that a team faces two nationally-ranked opponents ... and beats both of them as well.

No. 15 Eastern Volleyball validated their national-ranking with big wins over No. 17 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and No. 19 Christopher Newport University.

Eastern defeated Wisc.-Whitewater in four sets 25-11, 25-22, 15-25, and 25-17 in the 2 p.m. match. In the 4:30 p.m. match against CNU, Eastern swept the Captains 25-20, 25-19 and 25-21.

The Eagles went 3-0 this weekend in the Christopher Newport Invitational, improving to 16-2 on the year. Junior outside hitter Lauren Sproles (Lititz, Pa./ Warwick) earned tournament-MVP recognition and teammates Katrina Pisch (Blue Bell, Pa./ Merion Mercy) and Rylie Haas (Bethlehem, Pa./ Freedom) earned spots on the seven-player all-tournament team.

Sproles smashed 13 kills in each match on Saturday to go with her six from Friday. Head coach Mark Birtwistle said that Sproles had some additional responsibility passing and defensively. "She's on the floor six rotations," he said. "Sproles was excellent offensively both games today."

Birtwistle said that this week in preparing for the weekend's matches, he had talked with the team about taking their game to the next level. "We have the talent to compete," he said. "We just have to keep raising the bar. We showed today that we could handle nationally-ranked teams. Hopefully this is a stepping stone for the rest of the season."

In the opening match Saturday, Eastern ran away with the first set, hitting .433 and holding the Whitewater Warhawks to -.036. The second set was more back-and-forth, but Eastern maintained a .243 hitting percentage and kept Whitewater at .059. The Warhawks pulled away from the Eagles in the middle of the third set and didn't look back. In the fourth set, Eastern took the lead at 14-13 with a kill by Katrina Pisch and then proceeded to outscore the Warhawks 11-4 the rest of the match.

Sophomore Erin Hillman (Allentown, Pa./ Parkland) completed the Whitewater match with a team high 14 kills and three aces. "Erin did a great job," Birtwistle said. "She really steps up against our best competition."

Kearby Benak (Houston, Texas/ Langham Creek) had solid offensive and defensive numbers, recording 10 kills and picking up 14 digs. Setter Rikki Schlager (Lititz, Pa./ Manheim) mixed up her game a bit, delivering eight kills on nine attempts and passing for 45 assists. Coach Birtwistle commented how important the passing game is for the Eagles' success. "We go as Rikki goes," he said. "She really did a good job delivering passes and mixing things up and getting our hitters open."

Eastern libero Rylie Haas recorded 29 digs. "Rylie was all over the place," Birtwistle said. "They were hitting the ball hard. She handled this very well."

Eastern's middles Katrina Pisch and Steph Elechko (Lansale, Pa./ North Penn) combined for 12 kills. Pisch's nationally best hitting percentage dipped slightly to .482. Birtwistle said that other teams are really starting to key in on Pisch and that even though she and Elechko faced some strong blocking they were still able to have a good game. "Our middles played well," he said. "They did a good job of holding the other teams' middles so that our outside hitters could hit well."

In the second match of the day, Eastern handled CNU in three sets. Sproles' 13 kills (.393 percentage) were a team best. Four other players had seven kills: Benak, Elechko, Hillman and Pisch. Haas had 17 digs and Benak and Hillman each had 10 digs.    

The Eagles took the lead for good at 14-13 in the first set, 13-12 in the second, and 18-17 in the third. Sproles fittingly ended the match with a kill.

Eastern faces conference opponent Wilkes University on the road at 7 p.m. Wednesday and hosts No. 20 Stevenson University and Messiah College on Saturday.

Box vs. UW-Whitewater

Box vs. CNU

Updated: Saturday, 28 September 2013


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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