Seawolves win streak snapped by Cal State East Bay in five-set thriller

Another day, another volleyball team dispatched at the hands of the Seawolves. In one week, the Seawolves added to their win streak, snapped it and started a new one. 

In an electric five-set nail-biter on Tuesday, Oct. 3, the Sonoma State University women’s volleyball team triumphed over conference foe Chico State by the final score of 3-2.

Through five sets, the match finished with scores of 25-19, 15-25, 25-21, 19-25, 9-15, with Sonoma State stealing the victory after heading into the fourth set with their backs against the wall.

As a result of their gritty come-from-behind effort, the Seawolves were able to remain unscathed in conference play, preserving their 7-0 record          (13-3 overall), while also extending their current win streak to seven straight games, rendering them a tough divisional opponent moving forward.

On offense, the four-headed monster of Caiti Wiesner, Kelsey McIntire, Morgan Annala, and Calan Seitz proved effective, each scoring in double-digit figures to dominate the kill category. Also worth noting, senior setter Courtney Seda dropped 56 assists, leading the charge with 745 sets on the year, averaging 11.29 assists per set.

Having gone the distance, Chico State would prove to be a tough opponent for the division leading Seawolves.

“This is our rival, so this was a pretty intense game,” said junior middle blocker Annala. “Chico had home court advantage and the crowd on their side, so we knew we had to keep our errors low, and swing hard at every ball that came our way.”

In the opening set, Sonoma State came out looking a bit sluggish, trailing early as the Wildcats climbed out to a swift 8-3 lead. Following the short Wildcat run, the Seawolves were able to shrink the deficit to 9-7 after a Chico State service error, along with a service ace courtesy of Ashleigh Phelps and a pair of kills by middle blocker McIntire and outside hitter Wiesner.

Although a comeback looked promising, a two-point deficit would prove to be the closest the ‘Wolves would get, as the Wildcats cruised to multiple runs of four points or more, capturing the set 25-19 in convincing fashion.

Following their shaky showing in the first frame, the Seawolves appeared to have channeled the same energy displayed during their previous few matches, taking the back-and-forth set 25-15.

For the first 18 points of the set, both teams were neck-and-neck at nine points apiece. The subsequent point would prove to be too much for Chico to handle, as Sonoma State seized a 10-9 lead, not once relinquishing it for the remainder of the set.

From that point, Sonoma State took charge, lighting up the scoreboard with a show-stopping 14-5 run, earning them a commanding 23-14 lead. Back-to-back kills courtesy of McIntire and Wiesner combined to finish off the set 25-15.

Following an exciting second set, the third would prove to be just as action-packed as the previous – with six lead changes and 12 ties, notching the Seawolves and Wildcats at 16-all heading into the most crucial part. 

At this point, Chico State found their stride and turned up the heat, with four kills coming from sophomore outside hitter Bekah Boyle, providing them with the final two points of the set to give them the tie-breaking 25-21 victory.

Then came the fourth set, where Sonoma state found themselves with their backs to the wall and the home crowd in a craze. Although a difficult task stood before them, the Seawolves remained energetic and embraced the moment rather than allowing themselves to crack under the undeniable pressure. 

This became evident as the ‘Wolves found themselves locked in a heated 15-16 battle, ultimately taking control of the set with a commanding 8-2 run, providing them a comfortable 23-18 lead. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, there would be no response that could overcome Sonoma’s 8-2 stretch, succumbing 25-19 to conclude the frame.

For Sonoma State, the fifth and final set would show itself to be one of intensity and resiliency, as both teams traded blows to keep one another within striking distance. 

The battle of runs eventually fell in favor of Sonoma State, along with the overall momentum – as the Seawolves roared to an insurmountable 12-7 edge. 

The frame would eventually expire resulting from a victory-sealing block by sophomore Wiesner, providing the away team with a 15-9 advantage in the decisive fifth frame.

In a stroke of brilliance, Annala dominated in crunch time, leading the way in the final set with four floor-smashing kills, effectively dismantling a solid Chico State defense.

“It felt great to make such a significant contribution in that final set,” said Annala, who finished the game with double-digit kills (13) and five total blocks. “We had to keep our errors low and be willing to play some long rallies against them,” added Annala. “Even though we had a rocky start, we knew we would have to come out and execute in order to win, and today we did.”

Following Tuesday’s tenacious effort against Chico State, Friday, Oct. 6 would prove to be a bit of an outlier, with the Seawolves dropping their first conference game of the season to Cal State University East Bay in another riveting five-set marathon. 

The heartbreaking defeat dropped their record to a strong 13-4 overall mark (7-1 CCAA). The final scores were 22-25, 25-19, 20-25, 25-22 and 19-17 in favor of CSU East Bay.

On the night, it once again became the one-two punch of McIntire and Annala spearheading the attack, with each registering 14 kills apiece. 

In the dig category, four players – Megan Bohorquez, Seda, Wiesner, and Seitz – led the way, each totaling double-digit figures over the course of the game. Once again, senior setter Seda torched the assist column, providing 45 assists on the evening.

Although the Seawolves battled in every frame, the Pioneers presented themselves with strength and ferocity – combating plenty of spirited attacks with some stout defensive efforts. To compliment their defense, it is also worth noting that their offense appeared to be finely tuned, akin to a well-oiled machine.

“This game, East Bay had an incredible defense against us,” said McIntire. “They were digging and blocking a lot of our attacks, with their back-row working extremely hard to scramble and save balls no matter where they were. They had some really good hitters as well, creating trouble for us throughout the game.”

Following Friday’s loss, Saturday proved to be a new day, as the Seawolves found a way to reload the gas tank and rebound against conference opponent Cal State University Monterey Bay, triumphing by a final score of 3-1.

In this game, both teams appeared have played one another relatively close, with tight scores of 23-25, 23-25, 26-24, and 18-25 – before the Seawolves ultimately pulled away in the fourth set.

With the victory, Sonoma State’s in-conference record improved to 8-1, increasing their overall record to 14-4.

Although the match didn’t survive to the extra frame, the need to preserve and sustain energy showed itself to be a difficult task for a team whose identity is rooted in playing with high levels of intensity and emotion.

“Sustaining our energy can be really difficult when having to play long games,” said McIntire. “It can be physically and emotionally draining, but I think we handled it pretty well for the most part.”

On the evening, Sonoma State compiled a total of 71 kills, 65 assists --(59 from Seda), 81 digs, six blocks, and three aces. 

Four players finished the match with 10 or more kills (Wiesner, Annala, McIntire, and Tate Battistini) and 10 or more digs (Wiesner, Seda, Phelps, and Bohorquez), along with a double-double, courtesy of Wiesner.

Over the last three games, the Seawolves have managed to amass 197 kills, 183 assists, 251 digs, 43 blocks, and an average hitting percentage of .252.

The Seawolves hope to keep their momentum going as they square off against UC San Diego and Cal State San Marcos at home on Friday and Saturday, their first games back after the regional fires.