UC Davis hits the road for two ESPN matches

Junior Malia Bolko surpassed the 1,300 career dig milestone last weekend. She now ranks fifth in school history.
(Wayne Tilcock, AggiePhoto.com)
Oct. 23, 2017

Weekly Release No. 10 Get Acrobat Reader | Friday Live Stats | Saturday Live Stats | ESPN3

DAVIS, Calif. -- After dropping back-to-back four-set matches against two fellow UC schools, UC Davis women’s volleyball returns to the road for a pair of televised Big West Conference matches, starting with Long Beach State on Friday and concluding the weekend at CSUN on Saturday. Both matches will be streamed on the virtual airwaves of ESPN3, with 7 p.m. first serves each night.

The Aggies lost in four sets to UC Santa Barbara in their Dig Pink match last Tuesday, then fell in four at UC Irvine on Saturday. Juniors Malia Bolko (46 total digs) and Emily Allen (3.12 kills per set, .246 hitting) provided solid contributions on defense and offense, respectively. 

However, the week was largely highlighted by the play of freshman opposite/outside hitter Mahalia White. The organizational studies major from Canoga Park posted a 17-5-34 attacking chart for a .353 average against the Gauchos, then matched that kills total with three blocks in Saturday’s loss versus the Anteaters. Impressively, White has now delivered at least 15 kills in seven straight matches, a feat no other Aggie has achieved in almost 27 years (see QUICK SETS below). Her preseason averages of 2.56 kills per set and .159 hitting in the first 13 matches has since given way to numbers of 3.97 and .298 in the nine Big West dates.

“The biggest thing is how well Mahalia is learning the game,” said head coach Dan Conners. “She is learning what shots work and how to manage when situations aren’t ideal. And when I use the term ‘manage,’ it means not making errors. She can put the team in a good place. She is going for it in a lot of situations, she’s learning where defenses play her and how to get around those defenses. She’s also getting more opportunities. We’re setting her a lot because she’s figuring it out.”

Conners continued to praise White’s mentality in the gym as further explanation to her uptick: “What helps her the most is her mentality and her attitude about sports. She is here to learn. Not much bothers her, she goes with the flow, she pushes herself the best she can, and she gets along with all of her teammates. She’s just awesome.”

The upcoming weekend in Southern California provides the second looks against CSUN and Long Beach State, against whom UC Davis split three weeks prior. The Aggies lost in a five-set heartbreaker to the Matadors on October 5, then posted their first-ever series win over the 49ers two days later. White (4.78 kps, .341 hitting) and Bolko (4.33 dps) enjoyed strong weekends that week, as did sophomore OH Lauren Matias (3.56 kps, 2.96, 2.33 dps), junior MB Kelechi Ohiri (10 blocks) and freshman setter Paloma Bowman (14.67 assists per set).

Still, Conners looks for that sustained, continued improvement from his team, which he says has still yet to hit its peak. “We just have to play better, all around. We need to play together and play for each other,” he said.

CSUN (10-11, 4-5) has lost four straight since its five-set thriller in Davis, losing in straight sets to both No. 23 Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara last weekend. Junior OH Aeryn Owens, who ranks third in the Big West with 4.59 kills per set (367 total), totaled 20 for the weekend. Senior MB Rachel Diaz rates among the league’s most efficient hitters with a .361 clip. Those two players stung UC Davis for kills totals of 23 and 12 back on October 5.

LONG BEACH STATE (6-17, 3-7) also dropped a pair of matches on the central coast last weekend. Hailey Harward notched 20 kills on 52 swings against the Gauchos on Friday, but no 49er player cracked double figures in kills or digs in Saturday’s 3-0 loss at Cal Poly. Megan Kruidhof, who posted a double-double of 11 kills and 15 digs at UCSB, leads the Beach at 3.29 kps. Sophomore MB Kjersti Norvell ranks third in the Big West at 1.07 blocks per set.

This weekend has UC Davis’ first matches on ESPN3, whose schedule features nine total Big West matches in 2017. Trent Rush, perhaps best known for his postgame coverage of MLB’s Los Angeles Angels, will handle play-by-play on both nights. Former UC Riverside middle blocker Megan Reza will provide commentary on Friday, then move to sideline reporting on Saturday. Joining Rush in the booth for color on Saturday is none other than former Long Beach State coach Brian Gimmillaro, who retired last year after an outstanding 32-year at the 49er volleyball helm.

ESPN3 can be found at www.espn.com/watch , with direct links to be available later this week. Long Beach State provides live stats via StatBroadcast, while CSUN offers similar via SideArm. Direct links are above.

QUICK SETS: Junior libero Malia Bolko posted 46 digs over the weekend, vaulting her over two players into fifth on the school career digs list... At 1,305 total, she needs 91 to pass Cal Aggie Athletics Hall of Famer Candy Lench (1989-92) for fourth... Bolko also raised her season total to 427, making her just the second Aggie to record 400-plus in three straight seasons... Avreeta Singh (2006-09) was the first to assemble such a streak, posting totals of 503, 495, 419 and 414 from her freshman through senior years... The managerial economics major from Benicia is the only player in the Big West to average more than 5.0 per set (5.08), jumping past UC Santa Barbara’s Emilia Petrachi for the league lead... Junior MB Kelechi Ohiri shares fourth among Big West leaders in blocks at 1.00 per set.

Mahalia White’s streak of seven matches with 15-plus kills is particularly impressive when considering the outstanding hitters in the program’s 29-year history of recorded statistics... Lench was the last to do it, posting 16 to 27 kills in a span of seven matches late in her sophomore year of 1990... She nearly repeated the feat in 1991, when she tallied 20 or more eight times in a nine-match span... Kaylin Squyres came close down the final stretch of 2014, hitting 15 or more in six straight matches, then putting up 14 in the seventh outing... Amazingly, Lench did not sustain such a streak in 1992, when she totaled a school-record 630 kills... Sheri Ladrech (497 in 1992), Squyres (491 in 2015), Kelly Gaudino (485 in 2003), Allison Whitson (452 in 2012) and Jill Changaris (451 in 1995) did not achieve the feat in their respective career-best seasons.


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  • Rated No. 9 in contributions to the “public good,” according to Washington Monthly’s rankings of 303 public and private national universities.
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  • Top-ranked University of California campus based on earnings by young alumni (10 years after enrollment) per a 2015 Brookings Institute study of the U.S ED’s College Scorecard database.
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  • Topped Forbes magazine’s list of top 13 schools for women seeking STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) careers.