The CSUN women’s volleyball team had a tale of two games in its trip up the Central Coast this past weekend.
The Matadors opened up Big West Conference play with a bang on Friday night, upsetting the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos in five games at the Thunderdome, but their trip to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo the next day was a far different story, as the Mustangs swept the Matadors out of Mott Gymnasium.
Against Santa Barbara, the Matadors made a statement right away, winning the first game 30-24, but the Gauchos charged right back, winning game two convincingly 30-16 and game three decisively 30-25. CSUN, however, rebounded to win game four 30-27, then took a 13-8 lead in the fifth game. Santa Barbara made one last charge, winning the next five sets of the game. The Matadors didn’t buckle however, as kills from junior setter Kayla Wright and freshman outside hitter Brittany Williams sealed CSUN’s first win over the Gauchos since Oct. 4, 2003.
“It’s a great win in the sense that we’ve never won up there in the history of the program, so we’re real happy about that,” head coach Jeff Stork said. “I thought we played well a majority of the time.”
Sophomore outside hitter Angela Hupp led the Matadors with 14 kills and 23 assists, junior outside hitter Kristy Nua had 12 kills and Williams and junior middle blocker Val Kepler had 10 kills apiece. Wright had 23 assists, junior libero Amy Hultner had 24 digs and freshman outside hitter Alex Johnson had 11 digs. CSUN’s defense also came to play, as the Matadors collected 21 blocks compared to seven for the Gauchos. The Matadors also had a better hitting percentage (.239) than the Gauchos (.192).
For the Gauchos, junior outside hitter Lauren McLaughlin scored her 11th double-double of this young season with 17 kills and 15 digs. Sophomore Rebecca Saraceno also had a double-double, her seventh of the season with 15 kills and 11 digs. Senior middle blocker Brett Quirarte knocked down 14 kills and freshman Stacey Schmidt had 13 kills.
CSUN hoped to stage a repeat performance on Saturday against Cal Poly, but the Matadors quickly found out why the Mustangs are ranked 20th in the nation, as Cal Poly swept the Matadors by scores of 30-23, 30-22 and 30-18.
Kepler had a team-high nine kills while hitting .400, but the Matadors as a team only hit .108. Hupp and Wright both had 16 assists and junior Kelley Hanson had 10 digs.
For Cal Poly, junior opposite Kylie Atherstone had a team-high 13 kills. Junior outside hitter Ali Waller had 11 kills and red-shirt sophomore outside hitter Gaby Rivera added 10 kills.
With the season now into the conference stage, Stork says the Matadors are improving in both their blocking, as evidenced by 21 blocks against Santa Barbara, and in their offense.
Stork said during pre-season tournaments he noticed a couple of areas needing improvements.
“One was we weren’t blocking enough balls. And, we weren’t generating enough point scorers,” Stork said.
After a little more than a month on the road, the Matadors will finally play their first game at the Matadome on Friday Night, as they host the UC Irvine Anteaters at 7 p.m. Though Stork says it will be nice to finally play at home, he admits he’s a little cautious about the team’s rhythm being disrupted as they prepare for the Anteaters.
“We’ve been traveling so much that we’ve kind of conditioned ourselves to kind of prepare our day,” Stork said. “I’m anxious to get back home, but I’m a little curious to see how we respond to the daily preparation leading up to a match.”
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