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The Orion

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Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Strong October Offense for Volleyball

Makaela Keeve spiking the ball over the net. Photo credit: Hana Beaty

The first week of October is off to a solid start for Chico State volleyball, as the Wildcats were victorious in two of their three home games this past week. With a win against Cal State East Bay and a loss against Sonoma State, Chico State went into Saturday’s game against Humboldt State with a hopeful and determined mindset. The long week of games ended in Chico State’s favor, as they took the win away from the Humboldt State Lumberjacks.

The first set of the match was a real nail bitter as both teams were neck-to-neck in their fight to 25. Especially in the later half of the set, the score fluctuated from a one-point lead to being tied.

The Wildcats came back with three consecutive points as the Lumberjacks were held at 24, but Humboldt State won the last point with an out ball hit on their side, finalizing the score of the first set at 23-25. Chico State avoided getting discouraged and as a result came back to win the following three matches in a row. The scores of sets two through four were 25-17, 25-14, and 25-16.

The Wildcats cheer as they beat Humboldt State Saturday night. From the left Brook Fogel, Grace Shepherd, and Esti Wilson. Photo credit: Hana Beaty

Chico State’s offensive game was on fire throughout the whole match and largely is what lead the team to their victory. Outside hitter, Grace Shepherd, demonstrated her power on the court with her elaborate approach and strong, controlled swing.

Coming in as a freshman, Shepherd had to slightly adjust her attack and arm swing to match the faster pace of volleyball she is now seeing in college.

“The blockers come up much higher and they’re more aggressive, so you can’t just swing low anymore,” Shepard said. “You have to attack that ball at a higher point. So for me, that’s what I had to change and notice.”

Shepherd also has her own special technique she uses to avoid getting stuffed by opposing blockers.

Makaela Keeve and Kim Wright preparing themselves for another comeback. Photo credit: Hana Beaty

“I actually see the set, I look at the blockers, and then I look back at the ball so I can see where they’re lined up and where they’re hands are,” Shepherd said.

Another aspect that adds utility to the offense is tipping.

“It is effective because it throws off the blockers. They’re not ready for it, especially when you’ve been swinging hard all night,” Shepard said.

Not to mention, upon entering the third set, Assistant Coach Tommy Gott was giving Shepherd some pointers regarding where to start her approach. He was advising her to begin her approach closer to the net, as she was moving a little too far back and was therefore contacting the ball outside her body. Shepherd says she is known for going way out of her approach.

Minor tweaks and fixes to sharpen up the offense lead to a much cleaner game of volleyball and allow the Wildcats to improve upon the little things in their technique.

Middle hitters, like Makaela Keeve, are not only a huge asset offensively, but they play a large factor in setting up the defense, as well. Keeve hustles the length of the net, putting up double blocks with both outside and opposite hitters on the left and right side of the net.

The double blocks that she coordinates is the first defensive barrier that opposing hitters encounter. Nailing down the timing on a double block with the middle blocker and hitters is a volleyball skill that requires much practice and repetition.

Keeve, in addition to Shepherd, is another dominate swinger. She attacks with intensity and explosiveness and is able to slam the ball.

“It’s definitely really exhilarating (getting a kill).” Keeve said. “I think the best part for me is seeing how excited my own teammates get and how much it electrifies us as a team.”

With Chico State’s offensive powerhouse, they look to steal the win during more games in the near future. With a current overall record of 9-6, the Wildcats hit the road to face Cal State Monterey Bay on Oct. 12.

Karina Cope can be reached at [email protected] or @KarinaICope on Twitter.

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