Unable to slow down an Eastern Washington Eagles offense that entered the night with a conference-worst .127 team attack percentage, the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks suffered their second straight 3-0 loss, falling at home in the Rolle Activity Center on Thursday.
Ashley Seiler recorded 17 kills to go with 13 digs, both of which were match highs, helping the Eagles snap a two-match skid while posting a season-high .368 hitting percentage. With the win, the Eagles improved their overall record to 6-8 while moving to 3-2 in the Big Sky Conference.
Sydney Lema notched 12 kills and Heaven Harris added 11 for the Lumberjacks, who fell to 6-10 overall and 2-3 in conference. Northern Arizona had Kaylie Jorgenson contribute nine kills, but Eastern Washington saw three attackers get into double digits in the category.
Northern Arizona, which started the conference slate with strong performances up front, struggled for the second straight match to establish an effective block despite facing a smaller opponent. Needing every point they could get in a tight opening set, the Lumberjacks were limited to zero blocks in the first set as the Eagles tallied two on the way to the 25-23 victory.
Mistakes were also costly for the Lumberjacks, who faced 14 ties and two lead changes in the first set. A double-touch foul on an assist attempt from Lumberjacks setter Dani Westfall gave the Eagles a 23-22 lead, and after a quick side-out, the Eagles won the set with an attack that went off the block of Victoria Ewalefo and Harris.
Ewalefo and fellow middle blocker Abby Akin each ended the night with six kills for Northern Arizona, which moved to 1-4 at home with the loss.
Needing a third-set win to avoid the sweep, the Lumberjacks battled from a seven-point deficit, the largest of the night, to make it 21-19 thanks to Lema's serving. Lema collected two of her four aces during a 5-0 run that ended on a service error.
Coming out of a timeout, Seiler answered an Akin tip with one of her own to snap a 22-22 tie. Harris put down a kill late to save one match-point situation, but an Eagles tip, the thorn in the Lumberjacks' side for much of the night, capped off the 25-23 win.
Eastern Washington's hitters played smarter, getting points off the block, tipping into open areas and down the net, and sending high-hit balls off the fingertips of the Northern Arizona blockers. The Lumberjacks had just three blocks, matching a season-low, and the Eagles notched 54 kills while limiting the Lumberjacks to 46. Despite registering three aces and three service errors, the Eagles kept the Lumberjacks from ever finding an offensive rhythm.
Northern Arizona never led in the tight second set, which ended in favor of Eastern Washington, 25-22. Down 22-16, Harris' kill sparked a 6-1 burst that forced the Eagles into taking a timeout. As was the case all night, Eastern Washington figured out how to close it out, with Taylor Larsen winning a ball at the net after a bad Northern Arizona pass.
The Lumberjacks wrap up a quick homestand Saturday when they host the Idaho Vandals for a noon match in Rolle.