Courtesy of UCR Athletics
Courtesy of UCR Athletics

The UC Riverside volleyball team took the time to celebrate the careers of two of their seniors, libero Maddie Hubbell and outside hitter Cristina Maietta, on Friday, Nov. 18 against Cal State Northridge (CSUN). However, the Highlanders ended up dropping a hard-fought four-set decision to CSUN to end their last home game of the year.

CSUN jumped out to an early lead in the first set before Riverside’s Head Coach Michelle Patton-Coleman called her first timeout to calm down her team. Coleman called her second timeout when the Highlanders were getting a little too far behind at 15-8. Coleman must have lit a fire under them because after the timeout, the Highlanders came out and scored nine of the next 13 points to cut the lead down to one, 18-17. The Matadors were able to keep this one point advantage until they were able to rattle off three straight points to lead the game 24-20. The Highlanders were able to fight off four straight set points to tie the score, and were able to win the final point to win the set 25-24.

CSUN jumped out to another early lead in the second set scoring the first three points before UC Riverside cut the lead to two on numerous occasions. After that, the Matadors pulled away to win the set 25-17.

The Matadors once again took the quick lead for the third time of the night. UCR did manage to make a quick comeback to tie the score at three, but CSUN never trailed in the set and took a 2-1 match lead.

The Highlanders tried to set the tone for the set early on as the Matadors had done previously, scoring the first two points, and they fought for an 11-9 lead midway through the period. CSUN scored the next five points and took the confidence out of the Highlanders. The Matadors took the lead and never looked back. UCR did put up a respectable fight even cutting the lead to two in three different instances, but never got closer than that.

Seniors Hubbell and Maietta were on the forefront of the offense throughout the game on a night when they were honored for what they’ve done for their team for the past four years. Hubbell’s final dig was the 20th of the match and it also moved her into 10th place on the all-time conference career list. Maietta led the team in kills with 16 and was the main closer of plays for her team.

Coleman spoke very highly of the seniors on the team saying they meant, “Everything. They were our first recruiting class from freshman into seniors. Maddie Hubbell has a lot of accomplishments. She has the digs record here, I think she just moved into the top 10 for the conference with her performance tonight.” She went on to call Maietta the team’s “Rock. She always finds a way to do something that will help us on the court and so she’s been great for us this year as a senior.”

While they will no doubt miss the graduating seniors, this team is also filled with young talent. Freshman outside hitter Mickayla Sherman has routinely led the team in kills and has started to find her voice as a leader on the court as well. Coleman said of Sherman, “She’s really stepped up into the role, it’s a lot as a freshman, it’s a lot of pressure on the court. She’s feisty, she’s competitive, she wants to be good, she wants the team to be good. She’s not afraid to speak up.” After this year, the team will be looking for new leaders and Sherman looks primed and ready for that role.

The Highlanders concluded their 2016 season Saturday Nov. 19 on the road at Long Beach State with a 3-0 loss. UCR finishes 8-20 overall with a 3-13 Big West Conference record, a drop off for last year’s 10-19 overall and 5-11 conference record.