January 22, 2019
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By Antonio Flowers
Staff Writer

More than halfway through the 2018 season, the CSUDH women’s volleyball team is winless in conference action and seems destined to finish under .500 for the twelfth time in the past 13 years.

As of Oct. 6, the Toros have a California Collegiate Athletic Association record of 0-9 and an overall record of 5-12. Considering last year the team finished 14-12, posting their first record above .500 since they began to play in 1976, the Toros’ play this season certainly has not built on any momentum gained last year.

“I think the hardest part is” the competition, said Head Coach Jennifer Adeva. “The conference this year has been the best in the eight seasons I’ve been here. Everyone is really good from the top down.”

Another factor hurting the team is that Kalani Patrick, a 6-foot setter expected to contribute heavily this year, suffered an injury in mid-September and is yet to return.

But Adeva said that despite the record, several players have stepped up and kept the Toros close in many of their games. Among them are sophomore setter Jordan Ramirez junior outside hitter Tati Yandall; and three seniors: blocker Esther Duru; libero Sarah Greenland and senior outside hitter Marissa Weber who “has been doing an excellent job coming off the bench leading by voice and example,” Adeva said.

The brightest spot for the Toros this so-far winless season isn’t individual play, however; it’s that the team as a whole has been so competitive in so many games. An example of that is games two weeks ago against nationally ranked opponents: No. 25 Cal Poly Pomona on Sept. 28, and No. 2 Cal State San Bernardino on Sept. 29. Though the Toros dropped both contests at home, 3-1 against Cal Poly Pomona and 3-0 against Cal State San Bernardino, those numbers don’t come close to reflecting the grit and fight the Toros exhibited.

“The spirit is good. They are really fighting hard in each match and they seem to be working really hard to get better and they’re optimistic taking it one match at a time, that’s all we can do,” Adeva said.

Against the Mustangs of Cal Poly Pomona, the Toros had an early lead in the first set but eventually fell, 25-18. But they dominated the second set, leading at one point 17-8 before eventually winning, 25-16, paced by outside hitter Tati Yandall’s 12 kills.

“I think everybody was on the same page and when we’re all on the same page we’re lethal,” said middle blocker Esther Duru. “It’s about us playing together, communication and talking.”

In the third set, the Toros fell behind early but scored five straight points to close the gap to 18-13. But Cal Poly Pomona’s defense took over the rest of the way, and the Toros lost 25-17.

The fourth set showed CSUDH at its most competitive, as it featured 12 ties, the last at 17-17 before the Mustangs pulled away to claim the 25-20 victory.

The next night, the Toros hosted the No. 2 ranked Coyotes from Cal State San Bernardino who entered the contest 8-0 in conference action and 15-1 overall. Adeva knew that the Toros would have a tough game.

“They are good on offense, they are known for that and we knew that going in,” Adeva said.

True to form, Coyotes senior Alexis Cardoza had 12 kills and Hailey Jackson contributed nine, offsetting a trio of Toro offensive standouts: senior outside hitter Marrissa Weber and Yandall, with nine kills, and Duru with eight. Lynda Nguyen also stood out with a career-high eight assists.

The Toros were competitive in each set. They trailed 10-9 in the first set, until the Coyotes unraveled an 8-0 run, en route to winning 25-12.

In the second set, the Toros were close throughout, trailing 21-20 at one point, only to surrender two consecutive kills to Jackson that propelled the Coyotes to a 25-21 win. The never-say-die Toro attitude was in full force in the third set, as they trailed 23-16 late, but rallied to close within three before losing 25-21.

“It’s just the luck of the draw bringing in new players and the teams we’re playing, having a lot of returning players but right now we’re at a disadvantage,” Adeva said.

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