Volleyball season comes to an end

2015 redesigned Pioneer logo.

Tam Duong Jr.

2015 redesigned Pioneer logo.

Marissa Marshall,
Staff Writer

After a three game winning streak, the California State East Bay volleyball team’s season came to an end.

Last weekend, the Pioneers competed in the California Collegiate Athletic Association Conference Tournament (CCAA) for the second year in a row and played some of their best volleyball all season.

“In the end we didn’t get the result we wanted,” junior middle blocker Deja Thompson said. “We fought so hard and finished with our best record since 2010, which to me is amazing.”

East Bay finished the season 18-11 overall, 10-8 in the CCAA. They also had four All-CCAA honorees on the team. The four included Thompson, All-CCAA First Team; sophomore outside hitter Lindsey Ray, All-CCAA second team; and two honorable mentions junior outside hitter Kiki Leuteneker and senior libero Brandi Brucato.

On Nov. 16, the Pioneers completed a sweep against the UC San Diego Tritons (16-10 overall, 10-7 conference) in the first round of the tournament. This was also the third straight sweep by the Pioneers.

“This season was unforgettable,” Brucato said. “We started off preseason with a lot of success in Oregon. There were a couple games midseason we didn’t take care of business, however we ended up finishing in second and playing really good volleyball.”

In their previous meeting on Oct. 28, the Pioneers beat the Tritons 3-2, but this game they managed to overtake San Diego in just three sets.

At the beginning of the first set, the two teams went back and forth with the score tied 5-5. The Pioneers then went on a 5-0 run and from that point on, East Bay maintained a lead for the rest of the set and won 25-21. They compiled a .209 hitting percentage in comparison to San Diego’s dismal .038 percent.

East Bay was able to capitalize on the Tritons 10 errors in the set.

In the second set, San Diego was able to take the lead several times against the Pioneers and eventually grabbed the lead 24-23 towards the end of the set. But East Bay was able to bounce back with junior middle blocker Kathy McKiernan leading the way as she hit a kill to tie the game 24-24.

The Pioneers then went on to convert two more points to win 26-24.

East Bay led the entire final set and went on to win 25-19 to complete the sweep and head to the semifinals of the tournament against Cal State San Bernardino (14-3, 8-2). This was the first time the Pioneers advanced to the semifinals of the tournament since they entered the CCAA in 2010.

Thompson had a strong game and proved why she earned All-CCAA first team honors with 22 kills, 10 blocks and a .500 hitting percentage. Leuteneker backed up her teammate with 20 kills.

“Looking back on the previous times we played [San Bernardino] we were defeated in three,” Thompson said. “That wasn’t going to happen. We didn’t roll over and took them to five.”

East Bay took the first set in a back and forth battle. The game was tied 27-27 and one point later junior opposite Julie Navarro hit a kill to secure the 29-27 win.

San Bernardino took the next two sets, which included a dominating performance in the second set, winning 25-15. East Bay only hit for a .083 percentage in the set compared Coyotes’ .286 percent.

The Pioneers then fell 25-22 in the third set.

In the fourth set, the Pioneers hit exceptionally well with .310 hitting percentage and were able to get a 25-23 win and tie the match up 2-2, forcing a fifth and deciding set.

East Bay put up a good fight, but San Bernardino was able to maintain control of the game which led to a 15-13 final set victory and a 3-2 conference tournament win, ending East Bay’s season.

Brucato had 28 digs in her final game as a Pioneer. She finished her career with 1,422 career digs which is the second most in Cal State East Bay history.

“Of course I am sad that season is over and I don’t think it has fully hit me yet that I am done playing volleyball,” Brucato said. “Despite it being an end for me, I am so happy with this season as a whole and my run here as a Pioneer.”

The future looks bright for the Pioneers, with Thompson the lone senior on this year’s squad, they will have a bunch of experience returning.