Roxanne Neely (center) has been one of the top players for the Pioneer women's volleyball team in 2010. She was named conference "Player of the Week" during the last week in October. (Photo: Ron Allen)
UPDATED Nov. 8, 2010
Last year Cal State East Bay’s women’s volleyball team – like other sports in the university’s athletic department – made the leap in caliber of play to the NCAA Division II level. The adjustment up from Division III, expected to be a tough one, was indeed difficult as the Pioneers suffered through their first losing season in more than 14 years with just 10 victories in 31 matches in 2009.
It was the first losing season in the 29-year coaching career of volleyball head coach Jim Spagle, including the 15 seasons he has led the Pioneers. Before coming to CSUEB, Spagle coached championship caliber volleyball at Chabot College in Hayward and James Logan High School in Union City. His career record at CSUEB is 378-116.
Always a teacher of the sport, as well as a coach, Spagle and his players invested the 2009 season to learn what they would need to do to be competitive on the Division II level.
“Everyone on this team wants to win,” Spagle said. “The 2009 team laid the groundwork for this year’s team success by working hard and learning how to play on a higher level.”
And not surprisingly, the Pioneers have turned their hard work into many more victories in 2010, making the losses of 2009 a distant memory.
The Pioneers are currently ranked among the top 22 teams in the nation (for NCAA Division II), while having won 19 of their 25 matches so far this season. They are in second place in the highly-regarded California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA), where they are 14-6 against conference opponents.
Last year’s challenge has made better players of the eight seniors on this year’s team. One of them – outside hitter/setter Roxanne Neely – was named the CCAA’s Player of the Week for matches between Oct. 25 and Oct. 31. During the three matches played by the Pioneers, the resident of Lancaster accounted for 36 kills, 56 assists, 23 digs, four service aces, and two total blocks, while hitting .329.
Another top senior on the team, libero Lauren Massa of Mountain View, leads the conference in digs with 5.09 per set and a total of 463 for the season.
Although Massa and Neely will graduate after this season, the Pioneers’ future still looks bright with the play of sophomore middle blocker Brianna Bryant of Rancho Cucamonga, who ranks sixth in the CCAA in hitting with a .306 average and 170 kills, and freshman outside hitter Katie Allen of Modesto, who is eighth in the conference with a 3.14 kills per set average and 267 total kills.
“Katie is tougher than a dollar steak,” said Spagle.
After losing Oct. 25 to traditional CCAA powerhouse UC San Diego in four games, CSUEB came back to defeat Chico State in five games last Friday (Oct. 29) and beat Cal State Stanislaus in four games last Saturday (Oct. 30). The Pioneers split their Nov. 5-6 weekend matches in Southern California, losing to Cal State Los Angeles in three games Friday before regrouping to defeat Cal State Dominguez Hills in four games Saturday.
The Pioneers are set for their final matches of the season at Cal State San Bernardino (Nov. 12) and at Cal Poly Pomona (Nov. 13).
In the conference standings they are behind only perennial CCAA champion and national title contender San Bernardino as they prepare for those final matches of the season.
As part of their agreement to compete on the NCAA Division II level and as a member of the CCAA, the Pioneers are ineligible for post-season competition this year, no matter how they do in the remaining matches.
Even though they have to wait awhile for a decision on their post-season eligibility for the 2011 season from the NCAA, CSUEB should be confident that the women’s volleyball team’s winning ways this year will help make all Pioneer athletic teams eligible for post-season play sooner rather than later.
Additional information on the CSUEB women's volleyball team.