Nov. 12, 2010

* Courtesy of Eastern Athletics

It will not go down as one of their most beautiful wins, but Eastern University Volleyball advanced to the 2nd Round of the NCAA Regional at Christopher Newport University with a 3-0 win over Richard Stockton University. The #8 Eagles used effective serving to put together runs at critical junctures to pull out the match.

Eastern jumped to a 5-0 lead in the opening set, but the lower seeded Ospreys took advantage of a series of errors in the middle part of the set to grab a 16-15 lead and force an Eastern time-out.

"Coach just told us to find the court," said sophomore opposite Rachel Wenger, "he told us we needed to pick it up. We all had a little NCAA jitters in the beginning and they were really scrappy on defense." Out of the time-out, Wenger heeded her coaches' advice with a two well-placed tips in the next three points. She finished the evening with 11 kills and an outstanding .526 hitting percentage. Eastern closed out the first set with four of the last five points for a 25-20 win.

Wenger had four kills in the opening set. Courtney Reinhold put down six balls in the first frame. "Tips were working out really well." Wenger said of the run to close out the first period, "We were pounding a lot and they got back on their heels looking for the big hit and there were holes."

The second set crawled out of the gate as neither team gained a great rhythm early. Eastern broke open an 8-8 tie with five straight points. The Eagles earned four of those points with Kelly Groff serving. The sophomore libero, who received recognition as an honorable mention All-Region performer, effectively moved the Stockton defense with a variety of different serves in the run.

The Ospreys again closed the gap to a single point at 17-16 before Reinhold stepped back to serve.

The junior All-American took a different approach from Groff as she drove the defense back with a powerful jump serve. The Eagles earned a pair of points on Reinhold's serve to force a time-out. Out of the break, Reinhold found the floor with another serve, and Wenger dropped in another well-placed tip to put the Eagles up 22-16. The Eagles closed out the second set on a kill from Kearby Benak.

Eastern put things together in the third set with a strong run of serves from Mary Poole to claim a 6-0 lead. Stockton never closed the gap to under six points as the Eagles closed out the match with effective side-out play.

Reinhold finished the contest with a match-best 16 kills, and Benak added eight kills in her NCAA Tournament debut. Maria Horning finished with 40 assists while running the Eastern attack. Groff and Reinhold had 11 digs apiece. Nicole Serekian paced the Ospreys with 11 kills.

Eastern returns to action in Newport News tomorrow against Christopher Newport in a six p.m. contest. Eastern beat the #5 Captains in four sets in St. Davids earlier in the year.