Road remains rough for CSUN against ranked foes

Ivan Yeo

The CSUN women’s volleyball team certainly showed it was capable of playing to the level of the USC Trojans, who came into Thursday’s match at the Galen Center as the fourth-ranked team in the nation.

However, the Trojans seemed to have a little something extra in the tank, as USC overcame slow starts in all three games to sweep the Matadors in straight sets by scores of 30-18, 20-22 and 31-29 in CSUN’s opening game of the USC Classic Tournament.

“I think we were real good at the start of every match and real good the entire third set,” head coach Jeff Stork said. “Each of the runs that stopped us in games one and two were a couple of receiving problems that we had. But, I thought for the most part, right up until 15, we were doing extremely well.”

Sophomore setter/outside hitter Angela Hupp had 10 kills and 12 set assists, sophomore outside hitter Siara Grayson had nine kills, junior setter Kayla Wright had 13 assists and junior libero Amy Hultner had 15 digs. For USC, freshman outside hitter Kimmee Roleder had 14 kills and freshman middle blocker Zoe Garrett had 10 kills.

“We should’ve been able to hold them, (but) they just crept back in with their runs,” Hupp said.

The Matadors held leads early in all three games, but were unable to hold off the powerful Trojans.

In game one, CSUN led 12-10 until USC won the next four sets. Following a Hupp kill, the Trojans won three more sets to lead 17-13 and force a CSUN timeout. USC was in control from then on, winning the last four sets to take the first game 30-18. In game two, the Matadors held a 9-8 lead only to see USC win consecutive sets to take the lead, and then win three straight to break a 11-11 tie. CSUN fought valiantly the rest of game, but the Trojans refused to buckle, as they led 28-18 at one point and went on to the 30-22 win.

Game three had to be the most crushing loss of the three games. With the game tied at nine, CSUN won six straight sets to take a 15-9 lead. The Matadors increased their lead to 18-11 and later 20-12. USC slowly started to chip away at the lead, winning three straight sets to force a Matador timeout. The Trojans won three of five to close within four, then shook off an attack error to win three straight sets, cutting the Matador lead to 23-21 and forcing another CSUN timeout.

USC stayed hot, winning the two sets following the break to tie the game. Junior middle blocker Val Kepler put the Matadors back in front and Hupp, Grayson and freshman middle blocker Lynda Morales teamed up to deny a Trojan attack to give CSUN a 25-23 lead. USC refused to back down though, winning consecutive sets to tie the game again. Grayson put the Matadors back in the lead 26-25 and later, 27-26 with a tipped ball into open USC territory. The Trojans, however, won consecutive sets again, this time to put them in the lead. USC eventually got to game point, but junior opposite Jenn Probert forced sudden death with a tipped ball to the left corner that stayed just inside the boundary line, but the Trojans’ senior outside hitter Diane Copenhagen put USC in front and a Trojan roof block completed USC’s comeback and sealed the win.

CSUN had 24 hours to bounce back for its next match against Mercer on Friday and it turned out that 24 hours was all the Matadors needed, as they swept the Bears convincingly by scores of 30-20, 30-18 and 30-16.

Probert led the Matadors with 11 kills and Morales knocked down 10 kills. For Mercer, senior Julie Darty led the Bears with 10 kills, followed by junior Kendall Nichols with seven kills.

CSUN outhit Mercer in all three games. In the first, the Matadors hit .296 to the Bears’ .189. CSUN improved its hitting percentage to .323 in the second game while keeping Mercer to a ,029 hitting percentage. In the third game, CSUN outhit Mercer .225 to .121.

CSUN hoped to end it’s tournament run on a good note and pick up a big win over 14th-ranked Duke University, but the Blue Devils had other plans, sweeping the Matadors by scores of 30-23, 30-28 and 30-21.

In game one, Duke came out firing, taking a 10-4 lead and later increasing it to 14-7. The Matadors responded by wining seven of the next ten sets to catch the Blue Devils at 17. Duke countered by winning the next four sets to force a Matador timeout, then with a lead of 24-20, ran off with three straight sets to put the game on ice.

Game two, however, saw CSUN start out the aggressor, as it jumped out to a 11-7 lead. The Matadors held the lead throughout the match, but with CSUN leading 18-16, Duke won the next four sets to take the lead and force a CSUN timeout. Duke won three more sets until CSUN came back with four in a row to get within one at 23-22. The Blue Devils, however, won four of the next six sets to take a 27-24 lead and force another Matador timeout. Duke held off CSUN the rest of the way for the game two win.

Game three was hardly close, as Duke scored the first four points of the game, led 11-5, and after forcing a Matador timeout, stayed in control the rest of the way.

“We just didn’t pull through in the end,” freshman outside hitter Alex Johnson said.

Johnson led the Matadors with 10 kills and Hupp had 16 assists and 10 digs. Johnson, who has played very well in the Matadors’ first six games of the season said there’s still a lot to learn about playing volleyball at this level.

“I still have so much to work on,” Johnson said. “It’s a whole learning process for me that I still have to go through.”

CSUN now heads to the state capital for the Sacramento State Invitational this weekend. The Matadors start off against Manhattan on Friday at 5 p.m., then end with two games on Saturday, the first against Oregon State at 10 a.m. and the final game against the host Hornets at 7:30 p.m.