Volleyball sets sights on next season

Louis LaVenture,
News and Sports Editor

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For the Cal State East Bay women’s volleyball team, 2015 will be a season to forget.

The Pioneers finished the year on a high after they defeated Cal State San Marcos at home on Nov. 12, 3-1. However, their 6-22 overall and 4-16 conference records were not enough to put them into a brand new situation for the conference.

This is the first season in the history of the California Collegiate Athletic Conference that they had a championship tournament. Unfortunately, only the top eight teams in the CCAA qualified for the inaugural event, which left CSUEB one of five teams on the outside looking in.

“As a young team we only had a few weeks practicing together before games started and that definitely put us at a disadvantage, especially in such a team oriented sport,” sophomore defensive specialist Brandi Brucato said. “We are going to have to improve our team chemistry and become more disciplined within our coaches system of play.”

Despite missing out on post-season play, the Pioneers did have some memorable moments. The most recent came on Nov. 19 when senior defensive specialist Angie Maina was named to the 2015 All-CCAA Women’s Volleyball Second Team. Maina was pivotal in the middle for the Pioneers and she led the team in several key categories that included digs with 574 and service aces with 35. The senior also ranked second in the entire CCAA conference in digs, digs per set and aces per set.

The team has only two seniors on the roster and a slew of freshmen got some valuable experience this season. First-year players Kiki Leuteneker, Deja Thompson, Julie Navarro and Kathy McKiernan all rank near the top of the team statistically in several areas and give the squad a reason to be optimistic for the future. Brucato said the team will focus on specific skills, the weight room and repetition during the off season.

“Being a freshman everything was very new to me and I had no idea what to expect,” Leuteneker said. “When I began playing six rotations I feel like my role on the court grew and a lot more was expected of me.”

Brucato and fellow sophomore Zoe Smith are the only two defensive specialists on the roster who will be returning next season. Smith and Brucato will have some big shoes to fill after the departure of Maina.

“This year as a returning player I took a leadership role in getting players to work hard and trust our systems of play,” Brucato said. “As a player I feel I bring a lot of energy and positivity to the team because I love the sport and I understand the importance of motivating each other to get better.”

Sonoma State, 26-3 overall, 19-1 conference, defeated Cal State San Bernardino, 26-5, 17-3, in the CCAA Conference championship tournament 3-2 at the Rimac Center in La Jolla on Nov. 21.

Maina and SueKalena Tafoa are the only two seniors listed on the CSUEB roster that has 16 players.

“None of us had played together before, but next year the hope is that we will just keep growing as players and a team,” Leuteneker said. “I do believe that the other freshmen and I have improved tremendously and if we stick together we can carry the team even farther next year.”