The Cal State Fullerton volleyball team was unable to carry its impressive play from the weekend over to its conference game against the Long Beach State 49ers Tuesday. All three sets were close in score, but the Titans fell 3-0 after being unable to close any of them out.
“We did go back point by point,” said Titans Head Coach Ashley Preston. “Once we get in this rut of allowing four or more points on us, it’s really hard to come back from that.”
The game was competitive from the opening serve. The Titans played well on the net, but the 49ers’ pin hitters continuously found the floor to end rallies. This prevented the Titans from putting together any elongated runs.
The 49ers faced struggles of their own, however. Whenever they managed to string a few points together, their momentum was halted by a service error. Their first set lead never eclipsed five points because they continuously sent service attempts out of bounds.
To start the second set, the Titans fed outside hitters Madeline Schneider and Katelyn Nielsen. Schneider, who accumulated six kills in the set, scored three of their first nine points.
“Other teams watch film on us and prepare for us,” said junior Cady Francis. “I think that’s probably one of the main things they prepare for is defending Maddy’s offensive hits. I think that she’s been doing amazing lately.”
Although Schneider’s performance never wavered, the 49ers adjusted to her high volume of attempts and cut off the majority of the court, making kills harder to come by.
Controlling Schneider’s offensive attack helped Long Beach run its offense systematically, allowing outside hitter Emma Kirst and middle blocker YiZhi Xue to get involved and carry their team to the end of the set.
“Something that we’re working on is changing up who we set,” Francis said. “We can’t just have one person who’s an offensive threat to the other team. We’ve really been working on being more diverse.”
Tonight was Francis’ third consecutive start at libero. She totaled 13 digs during the game, bringing her season total up to 241, 60 of which came in the last three games.
The Titans got off to a hot start in the third set thanks to two service aces and three kills from Madeline Schneider, earning the Titans an early 7-3 lead, but the streak would not continue as the 49ers put together a six-point run, forcing a Fullerton timeout.
The wheels seemingly came off after the stoppage. The Titans gave up six points to unforced errors and their hitting percentage nearly halved what they acquired in the first and second sets. Schneider finished with 15 kills in the game.
“Our hitting has improved, but it fell off in the third set,” Preston said. “We have a quality hitter in (Schneider), but we need to get more hitters in the play so we have a more balanced offense.”
Another loss was not something the team took lightly, but their spirits remain high and they will continue to build on positives in hopes of earning a win in conference play.
“We’re making changes,” Francis said. “We’re really trying to get out of this streak that we’ve been having … I think every player is working really hard to continuously grow and become better teammates.”