SF State volleyball bested by UC San Diego despite strong performance

SFSU volleyball
SF State's Melissa Horton (9) reacts to a loose ball during their game against UC at home on Oct. 14. The Gators lost 3-2. Photo by Gregory Moreno.

The SF State volleyball team didn’t make many mistakes in Friday’s match against nationally-ranked #18 UC San Diego, but the 12-4 Tritons were there to score every time the Gators faltered.

SF State knew what they had to do to win, and they came so close, taking the match to the full five sets, 23-25, 25-22, 25-22, 17-15, 19-21. Close, however, just wasn’t good enough to overcome their opponent.

“Overall, if you look at our stats, it wasn’t a bad game for us,” said hot-hitting middle hitter Halimah Oswald. “I think we did a really good job with the game plan and sticking to it, it was just one of those battles. Someone has to lose and unfortunately it was us.”

That ended up being the theme for the night: The Gators, now 10-8, were great but the Tritons were even better.

“We actually beat them in hitting percentage too, I think,” Oswald said. Statistically, the Gators should have won. They out-hit the Tritons, .189 to .172, out-blocked them 11 to 9, and had more digs and assists.

“That just means it was the little things that got us,” Oswald said. “We say in practice, there are no little things. You have to work on everything and focus on everything like it’s important.”

“I feel like when we got a little fatigued we might have lost sight of that a little bit,” she added.

Still, Oswald led the team with a season-high 21 kills, and her teammates weren’t far behind. As a group, they notched 74 kills on the night, more than UC San Diego’s 66.

The fifth set not only wrapped up the match, it summed up how the entire evening went. Some calls went to the Gators, some went to the Tritons, and both teams hit hard, extending the game by going point-for-point at the end.

“We mentally prepared for it to go long,” said coach Michelle Patton. “We definitely knew it was going to be (a battle). We knew we matched up well with them.”

After making mistakes that cost them the first set, the Gators came back with back-to-back 25-22 wins in the next sets, including a commanding 7-0 run to open the third set.

The fourth set, however, was almost the reverse.

“It’s just about closing down games and starting strong,” Jazmine Williams said. “In the fourth game, we didn’t start as strong. I think it’s all about the way you start games, and when we start games really strong we tend to finish them. Everybody says it’s the way you end, but it’s the way you start too. Volleyball’s a tough game to get each point to catch up.”

The team has little time to reflect on the loss as they face the number three team in the nation, Cal State San Bernardino.

“I’m going to think about this all night,” Williams added, “but right now we’ve got to think about tomorrow because we’re the underdogs and we could come out and shock everybody.”