October 12, 2013

Titans 3 – Highlanders 0

It was an unusual feeling for UCR. The arena for the women’s volleyball match was decorated with not only players’ families, which is a common occurrence, but also a large amount of student fans. The crowd’s participation level ranged from supportive to heckling as the Student Recreation Center arena housed an excited, spirited energy, thanks in large part to a peculiar emphatic group that pranced around the sidelines with a walking stick, reminiscent of the lovable character Rafiki from “The Lion King.” Despite the roars from the stands, UC Riverside (1-15, 0-4) still couldn’t muster an elusive conference win as Cal State Fullerton won in three competitive sets (25-15, 26-24, 25-20).

“We played up and down. We had rashes of good plays and rashes of bad plays,” Head Coach Michelle Patton stated. “Good teams can’t do that and we’re still learning to be a good team. Our practices are getting better, but against an opponent, we have to clean up our game.”

On Saturday night, the squad attempted to secure the first set, but the Titans (9-7, 2-2) had a different idea as the visiting team played stifling defense, getting every ball back across the net. The Highlanders recovered from a 6-3 deficit to level it at six apiece, but wouldn’t get closer than four the rest of the set.

UCR responded in the following set as the team bombarded its opponent with scorching missiles as well as emphatic blocks to build a 23-18 advantage. Reserve players Annie Ellis and Bri Holmes entered the game and gave the team instant energy, on a night where lead attack Ashley Cox was ineffective. The Highlanders, however, couldn’t seal the deal. The home team saw two set points come and go as the Titans seized their opportunity and rallied to snatch the second set, 26-24.

UC Riverside did everything right in the second period. They outplayed their opponents, recorded more kills and fewer errors and tallied a higher attacking percentage. The only thing the team couldn’t do is win the set. Patton was proud of her squad, but noted that the closing moments are all that matters. “They played amazing. We hit over .300 as a team, but it doesn’t matter what you do ‘til 23,” she stated. “Then we broke down at the end, and that’s pressure. We need to learn to handle that pressure.”

The Highlanders tried to regroup in the third set as the home team weathered seven tied scores and three lead changes before eventually falling behind 23-16. With the crowd getting more animated and unruly, the home team made one last push as three straight UCR points prompted a Titans timeout at 23-19. Fullerton, however, silenced Riverside’s audacious play as a pair of kills sealed the set and match, 25-20.

Freshman Cristina Maietta recorded a match-high 12 kills for the game while Tyler Dorsey tallied nine. Holmes and Annishia McKoy each produced eight kills.

Maietta summarized the game, stating that, “Our team performance was a lot better than it has been. Obviously we have our ups and downs, but tonight we played with all our hearts. I think the coaches and other players noticed that. I think we’re making progress.”

“Our passing in pressure situations at the end of the game, it definitely broke down tonight, especially when we were ahead in game two,” Patton added. “Then just our offense in terms of our errors. We errored more than the other team and it’s hard to win like that.”

The Highlanders next go on the road to face UC Irvine on Friday, Oct. 18.