Photo by Jeff BarrettBy Calvin Jensen, USU Eastern Sports Information ContributorLooking to improve on their record-breaking season, the #12 USU Eastern women’s volleyball team did just that; sweeping the competition Friday in Nebraska.The Lady Eagles defeated Sheridan College in the first contest of the two-day tournament. After a long drive and a short night, the Eagles came out with intensity and didn’t slow down in their sweep against the Generals. Each set played out like clockwork with scores of 25-16, 25-13 and 25-16. Outside hitter Kiara Richardson led the team, adding to her #1 position in the nation with 15 kills. Ashlee McUne fed the offense with 47 assists and three aces. Defensively, Alyssa Simmons helped protect the net with five blocks and libero Avery Best stayed on the move with 21 digs.“As a coach, going into the fifth tournament weekend, you get a little nervous about the team’s energy and endurance. We’ve played over 70 sets in five different states so far this season but these players are doing what it takes to be ready for every game; these two competitions were no different. With only a few days at home between tournaments, the team is focused and determined in practice. Many of them are putting time in outside of our daily team practice. Two hours a day is not enough to out-perform the competition and these players understand that,” said head coach Danielle Jensen.Later in the day, the Lady Eagles didn’t skip a beat as their offense was relentless in the first two sets against Trinidad State College. In the third set, the defense came up big for USU Eastern as the Trojans began to gain momentum halfway through the set. That momentum deteriorated quickly thanks to the scrappy, back row defenders who have played a key role in the team’s success this year. The final scores of this matchup were 25-19, 25-12 and 25-19. USU Eastern volleyball has crushed the stats nationally in defense and offense. This game justified their top ranking statistically. Opposite hitter Sunny Perry led in kills with 12. Kahea Nihipali had five blocks on the game with setter McUne adding to her #1 spot nationally with 47 assists. Best had another big showing defensively with 21 digs.When asked about the win, defensive specialist Kennedy Poulton said, “We played really well as one. Our energy, grit and effort came together at the right moment to take a win. We went out ready to play and we left it all out on the court. Our game and this program is based on playing as a family and that really contributed today and brought us two good wins.”After two impressive sweeps on Friday, the USU Eastern volleyball team traveled across state lines to Torrington, Wyo. to complete their final two matches of non-conference play. Saturday did not play out like games past. The Lady Eagles were defeated in both contests of the day by Western Wyoming and Eastern Wyoming Community Colleges.“We would have liked to have had a different outcome as we finished non-conference play but it is what it is. After competing in so many games over a short period of time, I knew that a day like this was possible. We know who we are as a team and the games played today were definitely not us. I could immediately see the fatigue affecting the entire team as we started. They were exhausted both mentally and physically and just couldn’t compete at the level they have over the past five weeks. There are things we learn in every game and we will be back in the gym breaking down those areas we need to improve on. I am so proud of our team and what they have accomplished so far this season,” said Jensen.With a record breaking tournament season behind them, the USU Eastern women’s volleyball team will look to improve on their 19-5 record as they begin SWAC play. This Thursday, they will travel to #13 Salt Lake Community College to take on the Bruins at 7 p.m. On Saturday, they will look for a win against defending national champions College of Southern Idaho at 1 p.m..Both of these conference matchups can be viewed live on the Scenic West Athletic Conference Digital Network or on the USU Eastern Women’s Volleyball Facebook page.