Photo by Jeff Barrett
By Calvin Jensen, USU Eastern Sports Information Contributor
For the first time in school history, the No.12 Lady Eagles battled back from a two-set deficit to advance to the Scenic West Athletic Conference Championship. The semi-final matchup against The College of Southern Idaho proved to be the most intense game of the year for the Lady Eagles.
After winning the first set with a score of 25-22, a remarkable defensive showing wouldn’t be matched by the Eagles’ offense as they were unable to convert, dropping two straight sets with scores of 22-25 and 21-25.
In the fourth set, the Golden Eagles of Southern Idaho again shot out to an early lead, threatening the team’s chances of a conference championship. In a late set run, USU Eastern made the necessary adjustments and found ways to score around a tough CSI block. The Lady Eagles had unbelievable determination and defeated CSI 25-19 with fans clinging to hope of continued momentum going into the fifth and final set.
Knowing any deficit in the best of 15 set would be a disaster, both teams battled point for point until USU Eastern put on the pressure and jumped to a 8-4 lead as they swapped sides of the court. With grit and heart on full display, USU Eastern refused to let up in a 15-7 hard fought defeat of the College of Southern Idaho.
“There was no doubt in my mind the pressure that this game was going to have on the team,” said head coach Danielle Jensen. “This win showed the caliber of athletes we have on the team this year. To be down two sets in such a high stakes game, the team showed mental toughness and refused to give up. They felt the pressure and were able to make the adjustments to pull out a win. Today, I am proud to be an Eagle and am grateful to be able to coach them in the program’s first ever championship game.”
The Lady Eagles stellar defense was led by Libero Emma Ricks with a career high 22 digs. Right side hitter Sunny Perry had the game of her life with a career high 19 kills, adding a critical 19 digs on defense. Ashlee McUne continued to cover the floor and feed the offense with 47 assists, an impressive 19 digs and two aces. Once she settled in on offense, middle blocker Alyssa Simmons pounded down a career high 12 kills and put up four blocks at the net.
The Lady Eagles will meet Snow College in the SWAC Championship on Saturday, Nov. 9 at 1 p.m in Ephraim. The winner will punch their ticket to the national tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas on Nov. 21 and 23.