November 3, 2015

Highlanders 3 – Matadors 2

“Northridge looks to attack, Rosas controls it and sets it up to Peric who … gets the kill! Highlanders win! Highlanders win!”

That’s how it was — or, at least, how it would’ve been — called this past Tuesday at the Student Recreation Center (SRC) as the UC Riverside volleyball team defeated CSU Northridge in nail-biting fashion to earn their third conference win of the season.

The match opened with a first set that was nothing if not thrilling as the two squads found themselves tied 7-7 early before the Highlanders went on to earn six out of the next seven points. It looked as if the blue and gold were primed to run away with the set up until Northridge responded with an identical six-point rally of their own to knot the score at 14 all.

However, UCR once again took the lead, 22-19 and forced a Matadors timeout which did little to quell the Highlanders’ momentum as the blue and gold closed the set with three straight points, 25-19.

This first set established the tone for the rest of the match as both teams continued to trade points throughout the second set, tying the score four separate times before Northridge eventually pulled away with an 18-12 lead and took the set, 25-21, behind a combined 11 kills from Cieana Stinson (6) and Aeryn Owens (5).

While the third wasn’t as volatile, with the Highlanders jumping out to an early 15-10 lead, a big momentum shift occurred as the Matadors knotted the score at 23 and took control of the set to win it, 26-24.

Being down two sets to one at home, the Highlanders responded with an admirable display of  resilience in the fourth set, winning the final three of four points to take the fourth, 25-22 and force a match-deciding fifth set.

One would think the pressure that comes with a fifth set would be troubling for a struggling team such as UCR, however, given that both of their conference wins on the season have come in five set matches, the Highlanders actually found themselves in comfortable territory.

Nevertheless, the set was gut-wrenching as both sides split the first 14 points of the set to knot it at 7-7. While Northridge managed to earn the largest lead of the set, going up 10-7, the Highlanders continued to threaten any notion of the Matadors’ momentum as they eventually took control of the set with a 5-1 run to lead 12-11. After plenty of back and forth between the two squads, the Highlanders finally won the match thanks to a set-closing kill from Helena Peric.


November 7, 2015

Highlanders 3 – Titans 0

The volleyball team followed up Tuesday’s gut-wrenching win with a drastically more decisive, 3-0 victory over the Cal State Fullerton Titans on Saturday, November 7 and managed to add to program history in the process as the fourth conference win matched the most they’ve ever earned in Big West play.

As for how the Highlanders got the victory, they opened with a first set in which they never trailed en route to a final score of 25-13. This was followed by an equally dominant second set where the Highlanders earned 12 of the set’s final 18 points, resulting in a 25-18 win.

The story for the third can’t be told much differently than the first two as UCR jumped out to an early 15-6 lead and closed out the set — as well as the match — with a 25-17 victory.

The leaders for UCR in this one were the usual as Helena Peric (15), Fabian Rosas (11) and Alex Gresham (9) led the team in kills while Maddie Hubbell (15 digs) and Chelsea Doyle (37 assists and 15 digs) made their best efforts to stuff the stat sheet.

Oh, and if you’re in the mood for more history, this 3-0 sweep over a conference opponent was the Highlanders’ first of such since their 2011 victory over UC Davis. It perhaps felt even sweeter coming against a team in Cal State Fullerton, who they had previously lost to 20 consecutive times.

The Highlanders now sit at 9-16 on the season and look to continue trending upward this week where they have a two-game slate at the SRC as part of Homecoming 2015. Those matches will be against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on Friday, November 13 and UC Santa Barbara the following Saturday, November 14, both of which are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m.