Prior to this weekend’s events, the UC Riverside women’s volleyball team sat at a 4-6 (.400) record on the season. Unspectacular it may be, but anybody who followed the team last season would note it is already a marked improvement from last year, where the Highlanders lost all but two games en route to a 2-26 overall record and closed the season on a 22-game losing streak.
The team of course isn’t satisfied with a mere improvement from what was an all-around disappointing season and wants to continue to make progress toward being competitive this year. And while games aren’t played on paper, the current roster would allow one to believe that they can.
Highlighting the returners from last season are Big West All-Freshman and top attacker Alex Gresham as well as last year’s block leader in Meg Graham. It is also worth noting that five of the team’s eight incoming freshmen are 6’0” or taller, bringing the team’s total number of 6-footers to eight — the highest in Division I history of the program.
September 18, 2015
Highlanders 3 – Antelopes 1
The UC Riverside women’s volleyball team added to the win column on Friday defeating tournament host, Grand Canyon University, at the Grand Canyon Invitational.
The Highlanders got off to a slow start in the first set, allowing the ‘Lopes to earn four of the period’s first five points. However, UCR kept it close throughout and eventually rattled off a 3-0 run late to take the set 25-23.
Just when it seemed like the Highlanders had taken ahold of the momentum, the second set proved to be a nail-biter as teams continued to trade blows. Both sides matched each other 3-3 early before GCU took a 7-3 advantage on the back of a 4-0 run. Nevertheless, the Highlanders continued to chip away at the lead, eventually tying it 11-11. From there, the Highlanders and ‘Lopes exchanged leads until UCR finally closed out the set with two consecutive points to win 28-26.
Perhaps the energy exerted in the second took its toll on the Highlanders in the third as the ‘Lopes handedly took the set 25-20. Ultimately, the Highlanders pulled out a win by responding in the fourth, earning match point off a block at the net by Gresham.
It was a blue and gold-dominant box score in this one as four Highlanders earned double-digit kills, led by Herena Peric (18). UCR also earned 54 assists to Grand Canyon’s 47 on the back of Chelsea Doyle’s season-high 48.
September 19, 2015
Highlanders 1 – Lumberjacks 3
Highlanders 1 – Broncos 3
The Highlanders entered Saturday riding a two-game winning streak and ended the day bearing two consecutive on the losing end. The day started with a matchup against Northern Arizona where, despite the Highlanders effort, they proved no match for the Lumberjacks.
After NAU took off with a 5-0 run to put them up 7-4 early on in the first set, the Highlanders were tasked with playing catch up and they did so successfully, gaining a 20-19 lead later in the set. However, the comeback effort was met with a collective barrage from the Lumberjacks as NAU went on a 5-0 run to close out the set, 25-20.
The Highlanders suffered two more lopsided defeats in the second and fourth, respectively, losing both sets 25-16, while the team’s lone win came in close fashion in the form of a 25-22 finish in the third.
The blue and gold looked to rebound from this loss less than two hours later in their match against Boise State —their final of the tournament — and appeared to have shaken the disappointment after rallying off four consecutive points early on in the first set and continued to display good poise throughout, ultimately taking the set from the Broncos, 25-19.
However, Boise State responded in a dominant fashion for the rest of the match, cruising to a 25-12 victory in the second and two 25-13 victories in the third and fourth sets to seal the 3-1 win.
The losses were a letdown for the Highlanders after a promising performance in Friday’s match. One of the key distinctions from that win and Saturday’s results are UCR’s total blocks, as the team totaled nine against Grand Canyon and earned a mere two in Saturday’s matches.
On a positive note, Helena Peric was named to the All-Tournament Team after a consistent performance throughout the invitational in which she totaled 45 kills over three matches. The team will look to recover this upcoming Friday as they open Big West Conference play against Cal State Fullerton.