Volleyball clinches playoff spot

Marissa Marshall,
Staff Writer

With two matches left in the season, the Cal State East Bay women’s volleyball team secured a place in the California Collegiate Athletic Association Conference (CCAA) tournament over the weekend.

To start the weekend, the Pioneers played the San Francisco State Gators (7-16 overall, 3-12 conference) on the road in a four set game on Friday night.

While the Pioneers were unable to complete a sweep against the Gators, they played strong and pulled out a victory.

In the first set, the Gators led 10-6 at the halfway point of the set. Pioneers junior middle blocker Deja Thompson helped set the tempo when she scored on a kill with an assist from junior setter Katie Ireland.

From that point on, East Bay went on a 6-0 run to take a 12-10 lead. The Pioneers would maintain the lead for the remainder of the set.

“We’ve had some really great highs along with some tough lows,” Thompson said. “With that we’ve developed mental toughness to help us push through games such as this.”

The Pioneers went on to win the first set 25-18, with Ireland landing 11 assists.

In the second set, the game felt similar in terms of score. East Bay won the set 25-17 and dominated the entire game, never falling behind.

The Gators managed to get the upper hand on the Pioneers in the third set. They got off to a hot start as they took a 5-0 lead in the beginning of the game. Towards the middle of the set, East Bay was able to tie the game 13-13 with a strong block by freshman opposite hitter Tiana Weeks and junior middle blocker Kathy McKiernan.

The game went back and forth and the Pioneers took the lead when Weeks hammered a kill that put East Bay up 17-16. It looked as if they were on their way to another win, but the Gators managed to capitalize on some errors and beat East Bay in the third set, 25-23.

In the fourth set, the Pioneers came out intent on putting the Gators away and closed out the set with a 25-13 win and a 3-1 victory in the game.

This Pioneers hit for .345 and had 13 blocks in the game. Ireland had 44 assists, 14 digs, three blocks and seven kills without any errors, which was one of her best performances of the season.

“My mindset going into the game was just wanting to do my very best so our team could be successful,” Ireland said. “We all knew what was on the line and since I play a crucial role as the setter, I knew that I needed to perform in order to get the win.”

Her performance helped the Pioneers clinch their second straight postseason spot.

On Saturday, the outcome was the exact opposite of their game from the previous day. East Bay played Sonoma State (18-7, 12-4), the number one team in the conference. The Pioneers lost the series 3-1.

East Bay was held to a dismal .059 hitting percentage in the first set, as they lost 25-19.

Luckily the Pioneers had already secured a playoff spot. Their record now sits at 15-10 overall and 8-8 in conference.

“A lot of us have experience from from last years playoffs so I think that brings a different determination to the table,” Ireland said. “We know how it works and we know that we need to be focused from now until game day.”

They have two games left: Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. at Pioneer Gymnasium versus Stanislaus State, and another at 7 p.m. on Saturday versus Chico State, which will also be the last home game for the Pioneers.