TWIN FALLS – CSI volleyball dug itself an early hole that proved to be a few inches too deep Saturday afternoon.
The third-ranked Golden Eagles dropped the first two sets to 11th-ranked Salt Lake Community College before storming back to win the next two. The Bruins won the pivotal fifth set, however, to win the match 25-12, 25-23, 19-25, 21-25, 17-15.
The loss is CSI’s second in a row to Salt Lake. The Bruins swept the Golden Eagles in Salt Lake City on Sept. 29.
“We have all of the talent in the world to be scary, but we’re picking and choosing when we want to play,” said CSI head coach Heidi Cartisser.
On Sept. 29, CSI mustered just one block during the three-set match, while Salt Lake had 13. The Golden Eagles improved that department on Saturday, especially in the final two sets, but still finished with just 10 blocks to Salt Lake’s 20.
In the fifth set, CSI rallied from an 11-7 deficit to tie things up at 15 apiece when Jasmyn Keohohina-Malina came up with a big block. The Golden Eagles followed with two consecutive attack errors, however, to seal the win for Salt Lake.
Nothing went right for CSI in the first set, so head coach Cartisser switched libero and team captain Jojo Kruize to outside hitter and inserted Makayla Bradford at libero. Kruize recorded nine kills in the match, and Bradford had 22 digs.
“It was really choppy,” said Cartisser. “We needed to find some kind of rhythm, get the crowd involved, and get in some long rallies.”
Kruize, the team’s fiery and energetic leader, is tasked with righting the ship when the Golden Eagles’ play becomes lethargic.
“Salt Lake is a really good team, but I think we match up with them everywhere. We just don’t have that killer instinct, so (Heidi and assistant coach Jim Cartisser) are trying to bring that out of us,” said Kruize. “I think that growing up as a military kid, that ‘go get it’ attitude was since birth for me. I naturally have that. So playing with some of the girls who are more passive is about finding that balance. I need to be poised and encourage them, but I also need to ignite them and get them going.”
Keohohina finished with a team-high 21 kills and 11 digs, and Airi Miyabe added 13 kills, 10 digs and four blocks.
With the loss, CSI falls to 23-3 on the season and 6-2 in Scenic West Athletic Conference play. The Golden Eagles now sit in a three-way tie with Snow College and Salt Lake for first place in the SWAC with two conference games remaining. The conference tournament will begin on Nov. 3.
CSI next hosts Treasure Valley Community College Tuesday in a non-conference match.
“This is a group that needs to decide it’s willing to grind it out,” said Cartisser. "I guess sometimes we have to have some losses, and have some stings here and there to figure it out. Hopefully in the end, we’ll figure it out."