Historic women’s volleyball season comes to an end

Marissa Marshall,
Staff Writer

It was a bittersweet ending for the California State East Bay women’s volleyball team.

Although they lost in the first round of playoffs to no.14 ranked California State University San Bernardino on Nov. 17, the team made playoffs for the first time since entering the California Collegiate Athletic Association Conference in 2009.

They also tallied their highest win total since 2011 with 13.

Many of those regular season wins came against top-tier teams including the number one team in the CCAA North Division, Chico State (23-7 overall, 15-3 conference) and the second-ranked team in the South Division, Cal State Los Angeles (15-11, 11-6).

The win against California State Los Angeles was a major turning point for the Pioneers this season and helped lead them to a successful season.

“Beating Cal State LA was a great win for, and was a highlight in, this season,” sophomore setter and All- CCAA player Katie Ireland said.

“We were down 0-2 in sets and were losing the third set 25-19 and managed to come back and win the match. I have never seen our team battle so hard and it gave us that extra push throughout the rest of the season.”

East Bay fought hard versus San Bernardino (22-4,15-2) in their final game. The Pioneers came into the game as underdogs and were playing a team on a 13-game win streak is never an easy task.

The Coyotes dominated the first set with a 25-15 win, but East Bay showed some resilience in the middle of the second set, only trailing by two points 11-9. San Bernardino then showed why they are a nationally ranked team when they went on a 5-0 run and won the set 25-14.

“We lost some of our confidence as a team against San Bernardino,” sophomore middle Kathy Kiernan said. “We knew they were at an advantage of playing at home and being first in the conference. We were nervous and played hesitantly.”

In the third set, the Pioneers gained their first lead of the game and led 13-11, but the Coyotes’ .323 hitting percentage overwhelmed East Bay.

San Bernardino scored six straight points and continued their strong play for the rest of the set, winning 25-19 and bringing East Bay’s season to a close.

“San Bernardino played really well and is a very great team so I can do nothing but tip my hat to them,” sophomore middle blocker Deja Thompson said.

“Every game was a learning experience this year, win or lose, and I think as a group we learned just what we are capable of doing.”

The Pioneers beat the odds and made a complete turnaround this season (13-14, 9-9) in comparison to the previous season (6-22, 5-9).

The team had a total of four All-CCAA players: sophomore outside hitter Kiki Leuteneker, Thompson, Ireland and junior libero Brandi Brucato. All four of these players will return next season, along with three other rotation regulars.

The future looks promising for the Pioneers and they will look to get better each year.

“We took a big step this year,” said Ireland.

“We will only get better with age. We are only losing three people so we will be very mature and have great chemistry. We just have to keep believing in ourselves, our coaches, and one another.”