Led by new head coach, Jill Muhe, SF State volleyball started its season on a high note this past weekend as champions of the Cal State Monterey Bay Otter Classic.
The Gators defeated the Academy of Art Knights in three hard-fought sets (31-29, 25-19, 25-16) for the title, avenging their only loss of the tournament. The championship appearance gave SF State a 3-1 record overall and the team boasted three all-tournament players: junior Jacquie Brice and sophomores Jaclyn Clark and Meagan Wright. Wright was also named MVP of the Classic, after racking up 55 kills and 37 digs over the course of the tournament.
“It was great to get on the court and get the season started with a win,” said Muhe. “Both offensively and defensively we were able to execute many of the things we worked on in practice, and that is very exciting.”
The Gators’ first match of the Otter Classic was Friday, Sept. 6, against Cal Baptist, a team that narrowly trumped them last season in a close 3-2 decision at the Cal State East Bay Route 92 Showdown. This time around, Cal Baptist was no match for the Gators: the Lancers played catch-up for most of the game. Ultimately, the Gators put them away in three sets, with Melissa Horton’s double-double (11 kills, 15 digs) and Jacquie Brice’s 31 assists leading the offensive attack.
Team captain Katie Judd chalked the first victory of the season up to excellent passing.
“Everything starts with the pass,” said Judd, a senior outside hitter. “So when we can get our passes on target, we can run multiple hitters, making us less predictable. When we have the options, that’s when we’re best offensively.”
The Gators played their second match against Academy of Art later that evening. The Knights proved to be a tough opponent, putting the pressure on right away. They took the first two sets (27-25, 25-18), led by freshman Emily Papale’s seven kills. The Gators then went on to take the next two sets (25-14, 25-22) before eventually falling behind in the fifth (7-15).
Despite their loss, SF State had four players reach double digits in kills: Jaclyn Clark (16), Melissa Horton (15), Meagan Wright (14), and Kelly Ostello (13).
Day two of the tournament fared much better for the Gators. They won an early morning nail-biter against Dominican University that came down to a fifth set (24-26, 19-25, 25-18, 25-20, 15-11), a familiar circumstance that finally went the Gators’ way.
“We just told each other ‘calm down, this is our game, we know how to play Gator volleyball. One pass at a time, no crazy stuff. Just nice and simple like we practice,’” said sophomore Kaileen Mejia. Mejia had seven kills to go along with Wright’s 22 and Brice’s 50 assists.
SF State’s win against Dominican University secured the team a spot in the Otter Classic championship game against the Academy of Art team that had defeated them the previous day. It was a shot at redemption, and the Gators rose to the occasion.
The match started out with each team battling point for point in the first set. The Gators finally pulled away, 31-29, after a service ace from Clark and a kill from Wright. From that point on, the Gators commanded the court, blocking many of the Knights’ attacks and throwing down some well-placed hits of their own. Wright led the team with 11 kills, while Clark and Mejia added ten apiece. Brice continued to lead the team in assists with 31.
The Gators hit the road this weekend for the Sonoma State Seawolf Spike tournament where they will face Dominican University again, as well as Hawaii Pacific, Western Washington, and Montana State-Billings, on Sept. 13 and 14.