September 13, 2012 |

Free Press Sports Briefs for Sept. 13, 2012

Eastern volleyball begins Big Sky play

It was not the smoothest preseason, but the Eastern Washington University volleyball team survived, and now looks ahead to conference play. Eastern begins Big Sky play today, (Sept. 13) at Sacramento State. The Eagles (0-11) make their home debut this Monday, Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. against Portland State.

In the first month of the 2012 season, the Eagles were hit with a rash of injuries, as well as an unexpected coaching change. Eastern played its first nine matches of the year without a veteran setter, while also dealing with limited personnel and experience in the back row.

Senior setter Laney Brown was able to return to the starting lineup during last weekend's tournament at Iowa State. But almost as soon as she was back in the rotation, the Eagles lost two more important players.

Freshman defensive specialist Serena Ah Choy suffered an injury to her right hand during Eastern's match against Syracuse and senior Shelby Puckett exited the final match of the tourney against Iowa last Saturday with a sprained ankle.

Puckett is questionable for the match at Sac State. Ah Choy is expected to be out for at least two weeks.

“Despite these continuing injuries, we are improving with every match,” EWU head coach Lisa Westlake said. “But the most important thing for us right now is the mental game.”

After the PSU game the Eagles hit the road for a pair of contests at Montana State, Sept. 20 and Montana Sept. 22 before returning home for four straight matches beginning with Southern Utah, Sept. 27.

EWU's Black rides earns Big Sky soccer player of week award

Sophomore forward Cassie Black, from the Eastern Washington University women's soccer team, was recognized by the Big Sky Conference as Offensive Player of the Week for her performance at the Viking Classic in Eastern's two games against Utah State and Boise State Sept. 7-9.

Black was particularly impressive against Boise State last Sunday. She contributed two goals in 75 minutes of play, which helped Eastern secure a 3-1 win – its first ever against the Broncos and first in the 2012 season.

Black is Eastern's top point producers with four so far in her second year. She also led Eastern as a freshman in 2011, with six goals for 12 points. 

Eastern soccer finally home versus Idaho, Hawaii  

After five straight games on the road, the Eastern Washington University women's soccer team will return home this weekend to face Idaho, Friday, Sept. 14 at 4 p.m. and Hawaii Sunday, Sept. 16 at 1 p.m. Both matches will take place at EWU Sports and Recreation Center Soccer Field.

The Eagles are coming off their first win of the season – a solid 3-1 victory against Boise State, which was the first ever against the former Big Sky member. The match saw the same strong performance Eastern had been showing all season, but this time, the Eagles were able to find the bake of the net.  

“We have been playing really strong,” head coach George Hageage said. “Hopefully we get a boost from the goals we scored against Boise State, and that keeps our offense going.”

Last season, the Vandals made it to the Western Athletic Conference Tournament Semifinals, but lost to No. 1 Utah State.

Eastern and Hawaii have only met twice in school history and have not competed since 2001 and have split those two contests.

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