A night that started with sophomore outside hitter Hailey Harward singing the National Anthem ended with her clinching the match with an impressive block. After a rocky season, it was a joyous occasion for the women’s volleyball team, going home for the final time with some much needed hope for next season.
LBSU (9-19, 7-9 Big West) defeated Cal State Northridge in four sets 21-25, 25-22, 25-21 and 25-21, finishing the season sixth in the Big West Conference. It was a campaign filled with disappointment, but the team managed to end on a high note and win its last three games.
“It wasn’t a great season for us, but I’m glad we were able to end it like this,” Nieto said. “Playing at the Beach was a great experience that I’ll never forget.”
Nieto played her last game for the women’s volleyball team, but Patterson wasn’t able to suit up after being involved in a car accident two weeks earlier. She was replaced by freshman setter Mina Andjelkovic.
“I played my hardest for all the players that got injured this season,” Andjelkovic said. “This game was for them, and next year I look to take on a bigger role.”
The first set featured both teams hitting at similar rates, but it was the Matadors defense that put them over the top. Northridge managed to record three huge blocks near the end of the set that propelled them over Long Beach. Harward was aggressive right off the bat, recording six kills and picking up three digs.
After switching sides, both teams suffered a cold spell and hit below .200. The 49ers picked up their defensive effort, posting four team blocks and adding 16 digs. It was a hard fought set for the team, but the momentum carried into the next set.
The third set was on offensive explosion for the 49ers, as the team hit an impressive .400 percent.
“CSUN is a great serving team and we were able to handle their serves a lot better in the third set,” head coach Joy McKienzie Fuerbringer said. “Our girls stuck to the game plan and it just worked out.”
Tensions were high in the fourth set when both teams could not get ahead early on. The match was tied up at 19-19, but the 49ers would find a spark after a massive kill by junior outside hitter Megan Kruidhof. The team would end the match on a 6-2 run, and cap off an impressive win against the Matadors with a Harward block.
“The win was great, but what really stood out for me was that we ended the season playing together and competing hard in every game,” Harward said. “I’m hopeful that next season everything clicks, but for today I’m glad to be here right now.”
Harward led the team with 15 kills and eight digs, while also putting up an impressive five blocks. Nieto added 16 digs and Andjelkovic had 34 assists with eight digs as well.
A frustrating season ends on a positive note and the 49ers look to regroup next year and achieve their goals to make it into the NCAA tournament.
“We’ve got all the tools we need to come back stronger next year,” Harward said. “We can only go up from here.”