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Eags rely on grit to advance in Big Sky Conference

Sophomore+Libero+Puaoolelagi+Sau+prepares+to+serve+in+EWU%27s+3-2+loss+to+Portland+State+on+Oct.+4.+EWU+is+now+0-5+in+Big+Sky+Conference+play.
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Eags rely on grit to advance in Big Sky Conference

Sophomore Libero Puaoolelagi Sau prepares to serve in EWU's 3-2 loss to Portland State on Oct. 4. EWU is now 0-5 in Big Sky Conference play.

Sophomore Libero Puaoolelagi Sau prepares to serve in EWU's 3-2 loss to Portland State on Oct. 4. EWU is now 0-5 in Big Sky Conference play.

Mckenzie Ford

Sophomore Libero Puaoolelagi Sau prepares to serve in EWU's 3-2 loss to Portland State on Oct. 4. EWU is now 0-5 in Big Sky Conference play.

Mckenzie Ford

Mckenzie Ford

Sophomore Libero Puaoolelagi Sau prepares to serve in EWU's 3-2 loss to Portland State on Oct. 4. EWU is now 0-5 in Big Sky Conference play.

By Drew Lawson, Reporter

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It’s been a difficult start to conference play for the EWU volleyball team under first-year head coach Leslie Flores-Cloud.

The Eagles sit at 8-9 overall, but have dropped their first five matches against Big Sky Conference competition. The BSC losses include road setbacks at Northern Colorado, Idaho State and Weber State. EWU has also lost two home matches, one to Idaho and most recently to Portland State on Thursday night.

Despite this slow introduction to conference play, coach Flores-Cloud has maintained a positive attitude as she gets to know her players and attempts to help them grow. She said that having a sense of grit is important as the team attempts to navigate towards picking up its first conference win.

“Lynn, our A.D., has put that out there as our slogan for the university’s athletics” Flores-Cloud said, referring to EWU Athletic Director Lynn Hickey. “I think our volleyball team has a lot of that, especially being young and hungry. Grit really plays along with that.”

Flores-Cloud also said that focusing on achieving statistical goals is critical for a turnaround in a positive direction.

“We need to side-out at 63 percent. Any one of the girls can tell you that,” Flores-Cloud said, referring to a term used when a team gains the right to serve after they score or a mistake is made by an opponent.

The Eagles finished at 50 percent in sideout percentage in their most recent loss vs. Portland State.

“We have markers where we want our outsides to hit, our middles to hit, our right sides to hit, our passers to pass,” Flores-Cloud added. “Being able to see those statistics, see where you are, and continuing to grow. I hope that what [the team] is getting is definitely that we want to keep improving, because we’re not hitting those yet.”

While the going has been tough, the team has put in a lot of effort in attempting to bounce back and reach the goals they’ve set for themselves.

It’s off to a rough start. But we’re really working hard and putting in work every day. [Flores-Cloud] sets such high standards and we’re willing to reach those standards.”

— Puaoolelagi Sau, Sophomore

One way that the team allows for players to deal with struggles is through a buddy system. Each player has another member of the team assigned to them that they can go to and talk through any frustrations or issues so that they can be worked through.

“If you don’t feel comfortable with something you can go to that person and they’ll help you get through it,” Sao said. “So that really helps. Someone you can trust…usually the same position as you.”

The Eagles’ loss to Portland State did have some positives. Despite the 3-2 loss (25-20, 21-25, 25-21, 14-25, 11-15), the two set victories were the first in conference play for EWU. Sophomore MaKenna Davis led the team in kills with 15. Junior Samantha Boever had 25 assists for the Eagles and Sao contributed 30 digs.

EWU volleyball is back in action Saturday night, Oct. 6 vs. Sacramento State. The match is at Reese Court, with first serve at 6:05 p.m. Admission is free.

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Eags rely on grit to advance in Big Sky Conference