by August Linton
After a hopeful and energetic two set wins in the early game, the Cal Poly Humboldt Lumberjacks volleyball team lost their Thursday match against the Cal State East Bay Pioneers. The final score was 3 sets to 2.
Although the Jacks won their first match this season against the Western New Mexico University Mustangs (3-1,) they lost two subsequent matches against Holy Names University (1-3) and University of Wisconsin-Parkside (1-3.) Losing the first home game and their first CCAA qualifying match set a disheartened mood.
Pre-game warmups set the Pioneers and the Jacks directly on opposite sides of the net. They pantomimed the motions and tensions of the game ahead, separated by that intangible barrier.
The Jacks were energetic and fresh-faced during the first two sets. The final scores were 25/18 in the first set and 25/20 in the second, in the Jacks’ favor.
Junior Malia Coyle was confident before the game that the Jacks had a good chance of winning. Intensely practicing in the weeks since forming the team and other strategies like watching the Pioneers’ game tapes seemed to set the Jacks up for success. She says that since the team has been a losing one in the past, the issue is overcoming that momentum.
“The first two sets really showed the evolution of our team,” said Coyle. “We have to learn to win.”
The third set changed the direction of the game, some of the momentum which had carried the Jacks through so far beginning to chip away. Serve misses and long, exhausting rallies characterized this set. From a tie at 21/21, the Pioneers edged out a win with a hit from the left (22/25.) The loss sent a sigh through the room; the game could have been won here but they would have to carry on.
The Jacks Cheer Team, which had been stomping the stands and shaking green or gold pom-poms, packed up and left about halfway through the third set.
Renewed vigor from the Pioneers and waning energy from the Jacks led to a 25/17 loss in the fourth set. The Pioneers laughed and joked while switching to the other side of the court, while the home team seemed subdued in comparison.
It seemed the game was over even before the fifth set (lost 15/9) was half-gone. The Jacks’ pale, drawn faces shone through the net, floating hauntingly above the court.
Playing through all 5 of 5 possible sets just to lose was of course exhausting and emotional for the Jacks.
“Losing is always disappointing, losing in five is hard, but I did see some moments of brilliance,” said head coach Angela Spoja. Spoja arrived as a new coach in July. According to the players, she has invigorated the program already.
“They already got us a new locker room that actually fits the whole team,” said Coyle. “They’re giving us the standards that most schools are held up to.”
Senior middle blocker Lindsey McLaughlin was the kill leader for the game, scoring 13 kills and four aces. “Our new coaches have been great for us, they’ve been giving us some great structure,” said McLaughlin. “To see results in a game situation was nice, since we’ve really been working on offense this week.”
Another standout player was libero Kaitlyn Patterson, whose serve aces were menacing every time she was up in the rotation. Patterson also recorded sixteen digs over the course of the game. Setter Macy Thomas’s vigor shone, she seemed one of the most willing to sprint and throw herself to the ground in pursuit of stray balls.
Spoja says that this game showed “bright moments for a young team.” She says that many of the team compositions included an unusually high proportion of underclassmen, a hopeful fact for the Jacks’ future.
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