A 2022 Volleyball Recap: Pioneers Make A Return To The Playoffs

Jared Darling, Sports Photographer

The conclusion of the 2022 California Collegiate Athletic Association volleyball season saw the Pioneers return to the playoffs for the first time since 2018; a return marked by a significant turnaround from last season.

This season, the California State University, East Bay Women’s Volleyball team finished fourth in the CCAA standings with a 13-5 record in CCAA play — a tremendous leap compared to their tenth place finish last season. 

CSUEB’S fourth-place finish netted them a first-round matchup versus the Sonoma State Seawolves in the CCAA playoffs: an opponent that they handed losses to in both of their previous matchups. Based off of their previous matchups, CSUEB was slated to be the favorite in the matchup, however, the Seawolves finished just one win behind the Pioneers in the standings, making this contest a true toss-up. 

Unfortunately, the Pioneers fell to the Seawolves in the first round, ending their season.

By reaching the playoffs, the young team gain important playoff experience and confidence in themselves. Player Mia Jordan sees this playoff experience as invaluable for the years to come, commenting, “I feel like we are still very young with most of our players being underclassmen, that this experience puts the possibilities into perspective for everyone.” 

This experience also made Jordan hungry to win it all next season: “I am also very motivated to get back there next year and take home #1!” exclaimed Jordan. 

Echoing Jordan’s sentiments, Kara Green felt that this playoff experience has added extra motivation to get back to the playoffs next season. “Being there just felt right, like our team belonged and it was great for our confidence. We’re definitely going to build off of this experience and use it as motivation to work even harder so we can make it back next season and bring the title home,” Green stated. 

In spite of the first-round exit, there were still plenty of positives that can be taken away from the season, from winning streaks to individual honors, this season had it all for the Pioneers. 

CSUEB opened up the season with a loss but quickly put that behind them as they then rattled off ten consecutive wins, putting the rest of the CCAA on notice. The Pioneers continued to dominate the competition seeing as the team’s longest loss-streak only reached two games, proving the team’s impeccable ability to bounce back. 

Sophomores Lexi Pagani, Mia Jordan, Karis Carter, and Junior Kara Green were awarded All-CCAA honors. Pagani was honored as part of the All-CCAA first team, with Jordan and Green receiving second team honors, while Carter was an honorable mention. 

Pagani, who finished sixth in the CCAA in total points for the season, was appreciative of the recognition, but reiterated how important her team was in the process. “I’m very grateful that I was recognized as first team all conference. Every single person on the team inspired and motivated me in different ways which allowed me to have such a successful season,” reflected Pagani.

She also attributes her success to the opportunity in which she was able to bond and adapt with the team after transferring from Fresno City College in the spring. The extra time gave Pagani the opportunity  to learn the team’s systems and tendencies, which she believes gave her the advantage to finish sixth in total points.

Jordan is using her second team honors as motivation for next season: “Getting second team during my sophomore season of playing has motivated me exponentially to push for first team in the next years to come. It brings me satisfaction knowing that I have made an impact on the other conference coaches and been established as a threat.” Jordan was a true threat on both sides of the ball for opponents as she finished third on the team in total points and second in blocks. Not only was Jordan a threat, she was a centerpiece in the Pioneer rotation as she played in all 102 sets this season. 

One of the few glaring weaknesses that this season possessed, was the Pioneers’ inability to beat the teams ahead of them in the standings. Four out of their five losses in CCAA play came at the hands of the three teams seeded ahead of CSUEB: Cal State LA, Cal State San Bernardino, and Cal Poly Pomona.

These three teams have been mainstays at the top of the CCAA standing in past years with San Bernardino taking home the championship from 2016-2021. It is clear that if CSUEB wants to achieve their desired title, next year,  they will need to prove themselves in the face of these leading teams. Pagani feels that it is possible with the help of quicker in-game adjustments. “I think going into those games next year with more confidence and knowing we need to make adjustments more quickly would lead to success.”

This season’s sole senior, Tiana Weeks, says that this team’s chemistry is one like she has never experienced at CSUEB before, and that is what sets this season apart. “What makes me most proud of this team is their bond with each other. It’s like nothing I’ve experienced on any team here so far. You can feel it right when you step into a room with them. It’s constant laughter, encouragement, and striving to be better for one another,” said Weeks.

 She continued by expressing her confidence that this is just the beginning of a great run for the university’s Women’s Volleyball team. “We got many glimpses this season of the potential this team has. We have plenty of depth, talent, and chemistry which I believe we proved to have this ‘22 season. As long as we keep those things going for us, we’ll be in the playoffs again next year. This team has everything it takes to reach the upper echelon of teams in the CCAA and go deep into playoffs.”

With the newly-gained playoff experience, each All-CCAA recipient returning next season, and the depth of this Pioneer team, expect CSUEB Women’s Volleyball to reach the upper echelon of teams and make a run at the title next season.