Volleyball News & Highlights
November 17, 2013
Eagles Sweep Regionals; Move To Elite Eight
HUNTINGDON, Pa.--Eastern University Volleyball advanced to the Elite Eight for the second time in school history with a 25-17, 25-19, 25-23 victory over the Stevenson University Mustangs (37-3) on Sunday.
The Eagles swept through the NCAA Regionals with 3-0 wins over Johns Hopkins University, Christopher Newport University and Stevenson University this weekend. With the victory, Eastern will challenge the Emory University Eagles in Holland, Mich., on Thursday.
Eagles' head coach Mark Birtwistle said he was incredibly proud of the way they've played down the stretch. "We've had some ups and downs this season, but we came a long way. It's exciting to see how hard they're playing."
Eastern's Erin Hillman (Allentown, Pa./ Parkland) earned NCAA Regional Tournament Most Valuable Player honors. She hit .367 on Sunday, delivering 15 kills on 30 attacks with four errors. In the three regional games, Hillman finished with 36 total kills. Hillman also flourished in last season's regional games, tallying 35 kills then.
Birtwistle said they found a favorable matchup for Hillman and exploited it. Eastern setter Rikki Schlager (Lititz, Pa./ Manheim Township) said, "Erin did a great job executing, so we just kept going to her."
Schlager and Kearby Benak (Houston, Texas/ Langham Creek) were also selected to this year's All-Tournament team.
Eastern powered through the first two sets against Stevenson with a .464 hitting percentage. Hillman hit six kills in the first set, including the set-winner at 25-17. Hillman also concluded the second set with her 10th kill of the match. The Eagles took that set 25-19 before entering a tight third set. Stevenson tied the third game at 14-14 and took the lead on the next play. The Mustangs soon took a two-point advantage leading to an Eastern timeout. Eastern tied the game at 19-19 with a block by Stephanie Elechko (Lansdale, Pa./ North Penn) and Hillman. Hillman soon tied the score back up at 20-20 with a kill. Stevenson tied the game at 21-21, but a solo block by Elechko and a kill by Katrina Pisch (Blue Bell, Pa./ Merion Mercy) put Eastern in front 23-21.
The Mustangs regained a point after a timeout. Hillman responded with her 15th kill of the match to put the Eagles up 24-22. After an Eastern attack error, the Eagles took a time out, leading by the slimmest of margins. Lauren Sproles (Lititz, Pa./ Warwick) finished the match by coming up to the net and returning a Stevenson attempt back to sender.
Besides Sproles' match-ending block, the Eagles picked up eight team blocks. Freshman middle hitter Stephanie Elechko had four solo blocks and a block assist. Katrina Pisch had three block assists. Elechko and Pisch combined for 13 kills.
"Every good team has to have good middles," head coach Mark Birtwistle said. "I think other teams really have problems with our middles. We're certainly going to use them as much as possible."
Senior outside hitter Benak finished with eight kills and 11 digs. Sproles, a junior, added seven kills and 10 digs.
Benak, Sproles, Pisch, and Amy Guarino are the four Eagles still on the roster from Eastern's 2011 Final Four run.
Updated: Monday, 16 December 2013