‘Dogs off to best start since 2002

Senior outside hitter Aleisha Coates goes up for a kill. (Courtesy of Keith Kountz)

The last time the Fresno State volleyball team began the season 4-0 was in 2002 under then- head coach Lindy Vivas.

Nelly featuring Kelly Rowland’s “Dilemma” was the No. 1 song in the nation. John D. Welty was president of the university.

The Lakers actually had an impressive record, winning the NBA championship. Drake was 16 years old and was better known as Jimmy Brooks on Degrassi.

Fourteen years later, the Bulldogs have done it again. The team ended its East Coast trip on a high note after sweeping the New Hampshire Wildcats in Monday’s match 3-0 to increase its record to 4-0.

Posting a .257 hitting percentage compared with New Hampshire’s .144, the ‘Dogs secured the sets 25-19, 25-13, 25-23.

Falling behind in the first set 5-2, the Bulldogs tied it 8-8 after back-to-back kills by sophomore outside hitter Brielle Hefner.

Jumping to a 10-7 lead in the second set, the ‘Dogs would claim the set after capitalizing on the Wildcats’ eight attack errors and senior Aleisha Coates’ five kills.

Fresno State won the tough final set for the match. After being tied 23-23, a kill by Coates completed the Eastern sweep.

“We came and we conquered,” head coach Lauren Netherby-Sewell said. “I am so proud of our road warriors for pulling out four hard-fought wins in four days. I liked our tenacity when teams challenged us and the fact that we would step up and finish.”

Coates led the team in kills with 13 in the team’s final match of the Boston College Invitational and double-digit kills in each of the preceding matches. In the first four matches the outside hitter had 52 kills.

“I feel that our mentality should be to remain humble, hard-working, present and take every game as they come individually,” Coates said. “We have to continue to give teams our best game and work to come out on top.”

Netherby-Sewell said that Coates swung at a ton of balls and was steady passing, doing a lot of the work for the team this week.

Setter and redshirt freshman Madelyn Halteman posted a double-double with 30 assists and a team-high 14 digs. Senior libero Maggie Eppright had 10 digs for the Bulldogs.

Netherby-Sewell was impressed by the defensive specialists and the positive impacts they made throughout the match. She said that finding consistency between the middles and pins, along with the depth on the bench, will be key.

“We have a lot to iron out before our tournament, but this trip allowed us to try things out and see our strengths and weaknesses,” added Netherby-Sewell. “If we can serve and pass, we can really play. So that will drive our focus this week. We played much of the match out-of-system which was tough, but we found a way.”

The perfect ‘Dogs return home this week to host the Bulldog Showdown at the Save Mart Center. The team will kick off the action on Friday, Sept. 2 at 10:30 a.m. when they take on Portland State (2-1). The Bulldogs will play DePaul at 7:30 p.m.

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