Desiree Sukhov CSUB volleyball

Cal State Bakersfield outside hitter Desiree Sukhov digs a ball during CSUB's first round loss to Stanford in the 2017 NCAA Women's Volleyball Championships.

When Desiree Sukhov was still at Murrieta Valley High School, she used to watch the Cal State Bakersfield volleyball team play and think about her future with the squad. Sukhov's aspirations rose as high as simply getting on the court.

“Wow, I really want to be a part of this team,” Sukhov would tell her mother. “I think that’s going to be the biggest goal of mine, is getting playing time and being on the court to help the team.”

So for Sukhov, it was unexpected when she started 28 of her 30 matches as a freshman last season, finishing fifth on the team with 2.32 points per set. Sukhov was the only freshman or sophomore to start more than six matches.

Now in her sophomore season, Sukhov is building off her strong first year with the program. She was one of CSUB’s two preseason All-Western Athletic Conference honorees. Sukhov leads CSUB (3-6) — which will host UC Santa Barbara, Montana and South Dakota in the Roadrunner Classic starting Thursday and ending Saturday — in points per set (2.50), kills per set (2.12) and service aces (nine) in 2018.

“This year we have the same high expectations and she’s meeting them just perfectly,” redshirt junior setter Sidney Wicks said of Sukhov. “I think last year was a good base and then this year we can keep building on top of that.”

Roadrunners head coach Giovana Melo believes it usually takes players about a year to get used to CSUB’s program and playing system. For Sukhov, the biggest adjustment was mental.

Sukhov has a tendency to get down on herself when she makes mistakes, she and Melo said. Before, she was in the habit of looking away when she made an error and agonizing over it inside her head.

“It would translate into the next play,” Sukhov said. “It would just be a snowball effect.”

Melo, though, preaches the mental side of the game as the most important aspect. Sukhov made adjustments and earned her way onto the court.

Instead of getting visibly frustrated after an error, she changed to make eye contact with her teammates and tell them, “My bad, but I got the next one.”

Sukhov doesn’t always mentally brush off the last play, though, and is still working on that aspect.

“She has quite a bit to go, but I think she’s much stronger mentally than she was before,” Melo said.

Sukhov’s role in 2017 was limited to the front row and helping the other hitters. This season, she’s on the court more and also plays in the back row to help the other hitters, dig hits and pass.

She’s already topped her previous career-high of 13 kills in a match set last year with a 15-kill performance at UC Irvine on Aug. 31. Sukhov had three matches of 10 or more kills all of last season. She has four matches of 10 or more kills nine matches into the 2018 season.

“She is starting to get a little bit more range in her attack,” Melo said. “(She’s) learning when to take certain swings and when not to, learning when to bring it a little bit more in certain types of games.”

“Things are starting to click for her a little bit more,” Melo added. “She’s starting to get a little bit more comfortable in her position and with the things that we do.”

Wrestling releases 2018-19 schedule

CSUB wrestling will host seven home events in the Icardo Center this season. The Roadrunners will unofficially start the year with their Blue-Gold Dual on Oct. 19 before playing host to Life Pacific and San Francisco State on Nov. 1. The Roadrunner Open will be Nov. 18 and CSUB will also host non-conference opponents Northern Colorado, Wyoming and Fresno State throughout the year.

CSUB will head back to the Cliff Keen Invitational (Nov. 30 through Dec. 1) in Las Vegas and the Southern Scuffle (Jan. 1 through Jan. 2) in Chattanooga, Tennessee — both notable tournaments.

The Roadrunners will host Stanford on Jan. 27 in their only home conference dual of the year.

Visit GoRunners.com for the full schedule.

Jon Mettus can be reached at 661-395-7389. Follow him on Twitter: @jmettus.

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