October 4, 2013

Matadors 3 – Highlanders 0

The women’s volleyball team squared off against California State Northridge in the Highlanders’ season home opener. Despite the cheers of an energetic crowd, UC Riverside couldn’t muster a win as they fell to the Matadors in straight sets (25-12, 25-15, 25-19).

The Highlanders (1-13, 0-2) opened the match defensively as Cal State Northridge, who has only lost to nationally-ranked opponents this season, pelted an array of kills to lead 5-0, then increased the margin to 10-2. Fueled by strong serving from Tyler Dorsey, UCR recovered to cut the margin to three, 10-7. Four consecutive points by Northridge subdued the mini Riverside run as the Matadors ran away with the set, 25-12.

After losing the second set 25-15, UCR opened the set with renewed focus as both teams jostled for early set position. After eight tied scores through the first nine points, Cal State Northridge turned a 9-9 contest into a 13-9 lead following a handful of unanswered points. Despite generating kills mainly from freshman Cristina Maietta, the Highlanders eventually were defeated as a pair of Northridge winners silenced any potential comeback for the home team, 25-19.

Maietta led UC Riverside with 10 kills as Ashley Cox recorded eight kills. Natalie Allen’s 13 kills lead the Matadors as the team improved to 13-3 (3-0) on the season. Errors proved costly for the home team as the Highlanders produced 17 more errors than their opponent (27-10).

October 5, 2013

Aggies 3 – Highlanders 1

In the sport of volleyball, oftentimes only a handful of points decide a game: pressure points. The difference between jumping on the court with excitement or slumping back to the locker room with heads down. The women’s volleyball team (1-14, 0-3) has unfortunately been on the tail end of winning those pressure points, and Saturday night’s contest against UC Davis (9-7, 1-2) proved no different as the Highlanders fell after four competitive sets (25-21, 18-25, 25-14, 26-24).

With nearly 300 people on hand for UCR’s annual Breast Cancer Awareness game, the Highlanders started the contest off strong as the home team opened a 10-7 lead behind aggressive play from the tandem of Cox and McKoy. UC Davis, however, quickly recovered to win five consecutive points and eight out of the next nine points to pull ahead 15-11 despite gritty saves from the blue and gold. Backed by power serving and blistering kills, the Highlanders pulled to within two, 21-23, before two Aggie kills sealed the set, 25-21. The fairly even set featured only one kill differential between the two teams (16-15) with UC Davis slightly out-hitting UCR .387 to .333.

The second set saw UC Riverside maintain their consistent level of play as the Highlanders jumped out to an early 14-10 advantage on the back of Maietta’s six kills for that period alone. The Aggies offered resistance, closing the gap to within three on several occasions. With shouts from the crowd to “keep on swinging girls,” UCR steadied itself and sealed the second set with a Tyler Dorsey kill, 25-18. The home team outhit Davis (.270 to .161) and completed nearly 80 percent of their sideouts.

After dropping the third set (14-25), the Highlanders started the crucial fourth set with conviction as they bolted to a 6-3 lead, but the Aggies’ mixture of relentless attacking pressure added with off-speed floaters saw the home team fall behind 12-8. The two teams traded points with the score tied ten times for the set. The last knot came at 19-19, which proved to be the most crucial point of the match. A UC Davis kill saw the visiting team reel off three consecutive points to lead 22-19. Though the Highlanders saved two match points in front of a spirited Student Recreation Center crowd, they failed to come out on top, losing the set and match, 26-24.

Freshman Cristina Maietta tallied a career-high 22 kills and led all players for the game. Ashley Cox recorded 10 kills while Annishia McKoy chipped in nine. The Aggies were led by Devon Damelio and Valerie Brain with 11 kills apiece.

“Cristina had 22 kills tonight and as a freshman, that’s huge,” stated head coach Michelle Patton. “We’re putting a lot on her and she’s taking on the role of most juniors and seniors in most programs. She’s hungry to be good and she’s making progress every day.”

“It was definitely an improvement from yesterday. We still made some young errors out there, but I think they came out and competed well. For that I was proud of them,” Patton explained.

“I told them when we go back and watch this on film, we’re going to see some opportunities that we kind of blew. It’s just the learning process, understanding and handling that pressure, and making that play at the end of the day. We have a lot of freshman out there and it’s invaluable experience for them.”

The women’s volleyball team continues their three-game homestand against California State Fullerton on Saturday, Oct. 12.