CSUEB volleyball on three-game winning streak

Marissa Marshall,
Staff Writer

After they were swept by California State Dominguez Hills last week, the California State East Bay women’s volleyball team flipped the switch and went on a three-game winning streak.

The day after the loss to Dominguez Hills, the Pioneers beat California State Los Angeles — one of top teams in the CCAA — in a back-and-forth five-set battle. Since then, the team’s confidence has been through the roof and it shows in their play.

“The loss vs Dominguez was a low point for us,” said sophomore middle blocker Deja Thompson. “We lost bad. We never want a team to beat us like that again, so that match sparked a fire in us.”

On Friday, the Pioneers played the Stanislaus State University Warriors (9-10 overall, 6-4 conference) a team that swept them earlier in the season. It was a completely different game this time around, and it looked like an easy cruise for the Pioneers due to their dominance throughout the game.

“I think we are finally starting to click and really connecting on the court,” said sophomore setter Katie Ireland.

In the beginning of the first set, the game was back and forth between the two teams until a kill by sophomore middle blocker Kathy McKiernan set the winning tone. The Pioneers didn’t look back after that kill and maintained the lead throughout the rest of the set, winning 25-21.

In the second set the Pioneers had a similar start, but eventually took complete dominance, hitting kill after kill and winning the set 25-17. East Bay now led 2-0 and needed one more set to put the game away. And they did, but they had to work for it; In the third set the women started off slow and Stanislaus took a 11-7 lead, but the Pioneers stepped up defensively and tied the game up at 11-11.

East Bay went back and forth with the Warriors for the remainder of the game, but managed to close it out and complete the sweep that beat Stanislaus 25-21. The Pioneers earned their highest attack percentage of the season in this game with .311 and only made 11 attacking errors, their lowest of the season.

The Pioneers had to focus on the next task, which was to face the top-ranked team in the CCAA, Chico State (14-5, 8-2). Just as they played Stanislaus earlier in the season, they faced Chico previously as well and were swept, so East Bay knew there was a tough battle ahead of them.

The Pioneers took hold of the first set and beat Chico 25-20, which shocked the Wildcats.

“I think Chico was really caught off guard in that first set by how much we had improved since we played them last,” said Ireland. “We have been mixing around line ups these past couple games which helped us. They were not expecting the line up we put out on the court.”

In the second set, Chico became aware of the Pioneers’ changes and fixed some things defensively. The Wildcats dominated East Bay in both the second (25-15) and third set (25-17) of the game, which gave them the 2-1 lead in the match. They also held the Pioneers to a dismal .088 attack percentage in the third set.

Due to Chico’s dominance, East Bay looked to be on the verge of losing to the Wildcats. To the surprise of Chico and the league, the Pioneers refused to fall.

In the fourth set, East Bay showed extreme resilience thanks to stellar defense and the team managed to surpass Chico 25-23 and force the game to a fifth set.

The back and forth play continued in fifth set until Thompson helped bring her team to victory. The sophomore scored the final three points for the Pioneers, which led them to the 15-13 win. She also tallied a team-high total of 19 kills for the night.

“I just try to maintain a controlled aggression throughout the entire game,” said Thompson. “When I do that I seem to be the most successful. It helps the team’s offense run more efficiently and leads us to positive outcomes.”

Ireland got her second double-double of the weekend and her 16th of the season, tallying 52 assists and 16 digs.

“I have been working really hard on speeding the tempo of the offense up so the hitters are able to put the ball down,” said Ireland. “I also love playing defense, getting digs and I have a little war going on with [teammate Libero] Brandi Brucato, to see who can get more digs and each match, so that really drives me.”

Junior outside hitter Cassidy Caton had 7 kills, sophomore outside hitter Julie Navarro added another 6, senior outside hitter Darlene Lee tallied 25 digs and junior Brandi Brucato finished with 20.

After their perfect 2-0 weekend, the Pioneers are now 9-9 overall and 5-5 in conference, with a lot of determination. They face San Francisco State (1-16, 0-9) and Sonoma State (7-9, 5-4) on the road tomorrow and Saturday respectively.