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College Sports Notebook: Gators VB headed back to Championships

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Sophie Anderson (2), Maura Donovan (3), Marlena Billings (26) and Jessica Haynie (center) celebrate a San Francisco State win. (Courtesy: SF State / Brandon Davis)

SF State Women’s VB headed to postseason: The San Francisco State women’s volleyball team had not been to the California Collegiate Athletic Association championships since 2015. Over the last two seasons, the Gators have gone 9-43.

Down the home stretch this season, SF State has won four matches in a row, going 12-2 in individual games, including a 3-0 sweep of Humboldt State on Saturday. That win was the 10th sweep this season for the Gators, the most since their 12 in 2012.

That win in Arcata also secured San Francisco State’s return to the postseason, where they will face No. 1-seed Cal State San Bernardino on Nov. 8.

“This has been a building process over the last three years that all of the girls have been a part of and they were really motivated to accomplish this goal,” said head coach Matt Hoffman.

The last time the Gators faced the Coyotes, they were swept, 25-14, 25-13 and 25-19 on the road at Coussoulis Arena. Since then, though, San Francisco State is 4-1, including the regular-season finale over the Lumberjacks.

“They are a really good, skilled team,” Hoffman said. “Once you get to this point of the season and it is win or go home, you are always going to get tough moments to have to get through.  Hopefully, since we have had a win or we are we are out mindset over the past two weeks, we can keep it going for another match and then see what happens after that.”

In the match against Humboldt, sophomore outside hitter Drew Morris scored her ninth double-double of the year, with 12 kills and 10 digs, while hitting .500. Setter Payton Jensen led all players with 38 assists, while adding a pair of kills, herself. The Gators also got big performances from Jessica Haynie (11, 7 digs) and Vanessa Ditz (17 digs). Freshman middle blocker Marlena Billings had five blocks, while senior outside hitter Olivia Tabron added four blocks and eight kills. She now has 73 block assists on the year, good for 10th most on the program’s single-season rolls.

Defensively, the Gators (14-11, 9-9 in CCAA) held Humboldt State (3-23, 0-18) to a .128 swing percentage, and had a .448-.125 advantage in the second set. Overall on the match, San Francisco State hit .327.

USF WSOC wins 11th game, downing St. Mary’s: In their final game of the 2018 season, the Dons got a golden goal in the 92nd minute off the foot of Autumn Smithers, securing just the fifth 11-plus-win season in program history with a 2-1 victory.

Offensively, USF (11-7-2, 4-3-1 WCC) out-classed the Gaels (7-10-2, 2-6-1) , getting off 24 shots against a St. Mary’s team intent on packing the box.

Of those 24 shots, the Dons put 12 on goal, compared to the one shot (of four total) on goal by the Gaels. Even with that disadvantage, St. Mary’s broke through for the first goal in regulation, when Malia Allison took a pass from Anyssa Dominguez on the right side and sent a shot past USF keeper Molly Eby with 81:10 on the clock.

The Dons came right back with a Smithers penalty kick at 81:38.

After the end-of-regulation break, the Dons took the ball up in front of their bench on the far sideline and earned a corner kick. Sophomore Ashley Humphrey sent a pass into a crowd in front of the Gaels goal, and Smithers was able to boot it in for the winner.

The win gave head coach Jim Millinder his second 10-win season, becoming just the second coach in program history to notch two separate campaigns of 10 or more victories. He guided San Francisco to 13 wins in 2015. Saying goodbye to just three seniors, San Francisco has a strong squad returning next year, which, Millinder has intimated, could be the best he’s had since he took over the program.

Among the returners are Samantha Jehnings, who scored multiple goals three times this season en route to leading the team with 11, as well as Humphrey (four goals on the season) and Miciah Madison (four goals).

Academy of Art University: Men’s XC places second, women’s XC takes fourth at PacWest Championships: In their respective starts to the program’s seventh postseason, the Academy of Art cross country teams each turned in top-four finishes at the Pacific West Conference Championships at Woodward Park in Fresno on Nov. 2. A late push helped the men claim second overall with three finishers — graduate student Freddie Hessian, redshirt junior Rabah Houali and graduate student Victor Moreau — earning All-PacWest First Team honors among the top six.

The women came away with a fourth-place finish, led by All-PacWest First Teamer Hasna Kaarour, a graduate student who took second out of 93 runners.

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