The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.

The bubble had to burst eventually for the College of San Mateo women’s volleyball team.

After winning its first six matches of the season, CSM dropped two straight Saturday at the San Joaquin Delta Classic, including a showdown against reigning Central Valley Conference champion Fresno City College in the tourney semifinals 25-19, 25-7, 25-13.

The Lady Bulldogs went on to fall in the third-place match later in the day against American River College 25-13, 25-16, 23-25, 25-22 to settle for fourth place in the tournament. CSM advanced to the semis with wins Friday over Foothill College — a state final-four team from a year ago — 25-21, 25-19, 25-18 and to host Delta College 25-21, 11-25, 25-16, 25-18.

“t was great competition against established programs – just good volleyball,” CSM head coach Katie Goldhahn said. “Having four games coming into it — it was just a different caliber of competition. And we really rose to it on Friday.”

With CSM volleyball in its first year of existence, Goldhahn hasn’t had long to cultivate the chemistry of her mostly freshman squad. The team only started practicing at the start of the summer and got three walk-ons the first day of fall classes.

After cruising to six straight victories to start the year — the Bulldogs dropped just one set through the winning streak — the adversity of back-to-back losses was actually a positive in helping the team take its chemistry to the next level, according to Goldhahn.

“I think we needed those two losses,” Goldhahn said. “We needed to experience losses.”

The biggest downside of CSM’s first loss to Fresno City was an injury to libero Alexandra Legaspi in Game 3. The freshman was scrapping for a ball and collided with one of her teammates, causing an injury to her ribcage. Legaspi did not play in the third-place game against American River. Goldhahn said the injury does not appear to be long-term.

Legaspi currently ranks 10th in Northern California in digs with 112. Filling the void for the Bulldogs’ best defender in Saturday’s nightcap was Veronica Edhdami, one of the three walk-ons who joined the team last month.

Edhdami had a solid showing in her first start, totaling 10 digs. Six-rotation outside hitters Jade Tu (20) and Kaelah Velisano (12) also totaled double-digit digs.

It has been the emergence of Malia Koloamatangi at middle net that has been making waves on the community college volleyball circuit though. The 5-8 freshman is a two-sport athlete, sharing time with the CSM women’s basketball team. That makes sense since she has proven to have some of the best ups in the state, currently leading all California volleyballers with 1.91 blocks per set.

Middle blocker is a position of strength for the Bulldogs, who rank fourth in the state as a team with 3.06 blocks per set. Freshman opposite Janine Francisco ranks second on the team with 0.77 blocks per set, while middle Brittany Travis at middle blocker ranks third with 0.64. Fourth on the team is sophomore setter Samantha Johnson with 0.58.

“It’s hard to get great middles and it’s hard to find great setters,” Goldhahn said. “Having a middle attack as a big part of our game is big.”

Strength at middle is a must-have playing in the Coast Conference North. Chabot College and defending state-champion Cabrillo College currently rank No. 6 and 7 respectively in the state among team blocking leaders.

Goldhahn, though, continues to preach the fundamentals of strong serving and passing, she said. Contending with a relatively young team in the Coast North will rely on it, going up against a team like Cabrillo with nine returning sophomores.

According to Goldhahn, the Bulldogs’ fast start has been a product of making up for their lack of experience with good, old-fashioned hustle.

“I’m happy I have this squad as my first team,” Goldhahn said. “They’re really making a statement. They really hustle.”

Now CSM will play the waiting game. The team’s next scheduled match isn’t for two weeks in hosting Mission College 6:30 p.m. Sept. 28. The schedule gap is due to San Jose City College recently dropping its volleyball program. The Bulldogs initially had three scheduled matches against San Jose City, including two conference matches and a non-conference warm-up originally tabbed for Sept. 19.

With CSM allowed to play 22 overall matches this season, its current slate is down to 18. Goldhahn said she will look to schedule matches in hopes of playing before the Coast Conference crossover match against Mission.