Matadors win season opener

Ivan Yeo

The CSUN Matador women’s volleyball team opened their season with a busy weekend in Seattle.

The Matadors started their 2007 season on Aug. 24 at the Husky Classic at the University of Washington with two five-game matches. CSUN split both matches, but then stalled in its tournament finale against the host Huskies, who swept the Matadors convincingly. Still, head coach Jeff Stork saw good things out of his team during the weekend.

“Overall, I think it was a very good tournament for us,” Stork said. “We have a lot of competition at different positions, most notably at outside hitter.”

CSUN won its season opener against Fresno State on Aug. 24 in five games. Northridge lost the first game 30-25, but came back to win the next two games by scores of 32-30 and 30-28. Fresno State forced a game five, but CSUN came back to close out the Bulldogs with a 15-12 win to take the match.

Freshman outside hitter Alex Johnson had a spectacular Matador debut against Fresno State, as she led the way with a team-high 22 kills. Johnson alsohad 20 digs. Junior outside hitter Harmony Burdine had 16 kills and 23 digs, junior middle blocker Val Kepler had 11 kills, sophomore setter Angela Hupp had 34 set assists and 12 digs, junior setter Kayla Wright had 26 assists and junior libero Kelley Hanson had 29 kills.

The Matadors’ next opponent was the University of San Francisco Dons at 1 p.m. on Aug. 25, and it looked like the Matadors would make quick work of the Dons, winning the first two games by scores of 30-27 and 30-24. But San Francisco came back, winning the third set 30-27 and the fourth set in sudden death 32-30. The Dons completed its comeback with a 15-10 win in game five. Five Matadors reached double digits in kills, with Burdine leading the way with 16. Kepler had 13 kills, Johnson had 12, Hupp had 11 and freshman middle blocker Lynda Morales had 10. Wright had a team-high 36 assists and junior libero Amy Hultner had a team-high 29 digs.

CSUN had only six hours to shake off the tough loss to San Francisco and prepare for host Washington, the No. 8 ranked team in the nation at the time. The Huskies, however, never gave the Matadors a chance to recover, as Washington won game one 30-20, then asserted its dominance even further, winning game two 30-27 and game three 30-15. Hupp had a team-high 17 assists, Wright had 12 assists and Hultner had 16 digs.

One thing that has impressed Stork has been the play of his outside hitters, particularly the play of Alex Johnson. With a combined 41 kills in three games, the freshman out of Westlake High has made quite in impression.

“She’s an outstanding volleyball player,” Stork said of Johnson. “She is dedicated to the sport, she is dedicated to training, and she brings a lot of intensity to the court.”

One thing Stork continues to work on is trying to fully utilize the play of his outside hitters, which features Burdine and Johnson, but also Hupp, sophomore Siara Grayson and junior Jenn Probert, who also plays as an opposite.

“We have five very good outside hitters and we’re trying to figure out how to place them in any particular match,” Stork said. “Each one has strengths and weaknesses that we’re trying to figure out how to blend them together.”

CSUN continued its road trip over the Labor Day Weekend, though they didn’t have to go far, as the Matadors headed off to the Galen Center for the USC Classic. The Matadors had their work cut out for them, opening their tournament run on Thursday against the host Trojans, who are currently ranked fourth in the nation. CSUN followed with a match against Mercer on Friday at 6 p.m., then faced the 14th ranked Duke Blue Devils Saturday morning at 11 a.m.