The first matches of the 2022 regular season are on deck for Eastern Washington volleyball, as they travel to Memphis, Tenn. for the Tiger Brawl Tournament. Eastern will play three matches this weekend, starting with Central Michigan on Friday, August 26th at 7 am Pacific Time, followed by Southern University at 2 pm the same day. The tournament concludes for the Eagles against host, Memphis, on Saturday, August 27th at 10 am
Last Time Out
Eastern Washington hosted Central Washington this past Saturday in an exhibition match at Reese Court. The Wildcats took the match, 3-0. Junior Sage Brustad finished with a match-high, 13 kills and a .273 hitting percentage. Eastern had a 7.0 to 5.0 blocking advantage, with Renata Lopez Morales recording three block assists. For the match, Eastern hits .159 as a team, while CWU hits .253.
Scouting the Eagles
The Eagles had a 7-9 record in the Big Sky last season, going 11-14 overall. The team qualified for its second consecutive Big Sky Tournament as the seven seed. The team will need to replace its top scorer from 2021 in Maya McClellan’s team leading, 2.61 kills per set. They will also need to replace the team’s top net defender in Ashlyn Blotzerwho averaged 0.67 blocks per set.
The bulk of the ’21 team is back for first year head coach Jon Haruguchi, with 15 returners. Among the returners include Brustad, who is the top returning scorer with 2.13 kills per set. Lindsey Russell continues as the setter in her senior season, bringing back 7.17 assists per set. Makena Collins returns as the team’s starting libero after averaging 3.06 digs per set. Senior middle blocker McKenna Russell gives Eastern a strong net presence, with 0.63 blocks per set a season ago. Sophomore Sadie Bacon provides production across the floor, with 1.90 kills per set and 0.53 blocks per set.
Haruguchi also brings in three freshmen including Morgan Blazzard, Emma Thompson and Graysen Trupp.
Scouting the Chippewas
Central Michigan head coach Mike Gawlik enters his seventh season coaching the Chippewas and led the team to a 7-11 MAC record last season, 13-17 overall. The team has five freshman and 12 returning players from 2021. Sophomore outside hitter Linnea Willer is the Chippewas’ top returning scorer with 2.41 kills per set and a .233 hitting percentage. Sophomore Libero Aly Gurtiza also returns for CMU, averaging 5.34 digs per set.
Eastern Washington and Central Michigan have only faced each other once prior to this season, with the Eagles dropping the match 1-3 to the Chippewas in September of 1995.
Scouting the Jaguars
Southern University enters its ninth season under head coach Venessa Jacobs. The Jaguars had a 7-9 record in SWAC and went 8-15 overall in 2021. Xaria Taylor led the team with 0.71 blocks per set, posting 20 solos and 41 block assists. Taylor was named to the Preseason All-SWAC Second Team. Sophomore outside hitter, Elise Doomes, ranked second on the team last season with 2.20 kills per set, while hitting .171.
This will be the first meeting between Eastern Washington and Southern University.
Scouting the Tigers
Memphis will begin head coach Sean Burdette’s fifth year with the program, and the team went 6-14 in the American Conference and 13-19 overall last season. Outside hitter Miaya Smith returns for her fifth year with the Tigers after leading the team with 2.70 kills per set and a .275 hitting percentage. Sophomore libero Bailey Houlihan coordinated Memphis’ defense last season as she led the team with 4.49 digs per set.
Eastern Washington and Memphis will meet for the first time in their history on Saturday.
Opening September, Eastern Washington will take on South Dakota State in Brookings, SD for two matches. The first match will be on Friday, September 2nd at 4 pm, followed by a match on Saturday, September 3rd at 9 am