Matadors sweep Riverside for first Big West win at home

Ivan Yeo

The CSUN women’s volleyball team had just 24 hours to bounce back from a four game defeat against UC Irvine.

It turns out that 24 hours was all the time it needed.

The Matadors were dominant in the first two games of their Big West Conference match against UC Riverside, then survived a hard-fought game three to complete a three-game sweep of the Highlanders at the Matadome Saturday night.

“We expect nothing at the start of every game,” head coach Jeff Stork said. “We just want to be the best we can be.”

In game three, Northridge held on to a 13-12 lead until it won the next three sets to take a 16-12 lead, forcing a Riverside timeout. CSUN then won two more sets following the break to raise its advantage to 18-12, its largest lead of the third game.

The Matadors led 21-16 until Riverside caught fire, winning the next five sets to tie the game. A kill by junior middle blocker Val Kepler put CSUN back in front and freshman outside hitter Brittany Williams aced the ensuing serve to give the Matadors a bit of a cushion. Riverside continued to apply the pressure down the stretch, pulling to within one point at 27-26 until Williams smashed three straight kills to end the match.

“We expected (Riverside) to come back hard and come back strong,” Williams said. “We just made sure we stayed steady.”

The first two games hardly resembled the third game. In game one, CSUN jumped out to a 4-0 lead. That was just the start of things for the Matadors, as they won seven of the next nine sets to lead 12-3 and force a Riverside timeout. CSUN’s lead reached double-digits at 14-4 when junior setter Kayla Wright dumped a set ball into Riverside territory.

The Matadors’ lead peaked at 13 on three occasions and though Riverside started to show some life later in the first game, the Highlanders were never really a threat, as the Matadors took game one 30-21.

Despite the lopsided win, Stork commended Riverside’s effort. The Highlanders used 15 of the 18 players on their roster.

“They’ve (Riverside) got some talent, but they’re still trying to figure it out, if you look at how many people they’re playing,” Stork said.

Game two pretty much looked like game one, with the Matadors jumping out to a 4-0 lead. CSUN led 7-4, then won three straight sets to stretch the lead to 10-4 and force a Riverside timeout. Just like game one, the Matadors maintained their large advantage and never allowed Riverside to get into the match, leading by as many as 16 and eventually winning the game 30-15.

Williams led the Matadors with 16 kills, matching her career-high of Friday night, and Kepler added 12 kills. CSUN was without sophomore Angela Hupp, who was out for “health-related” reasons, Stork said.

Without Hupp, the Matadors received contributions from everyone who saw time in the match. Freshman middle blocker Lynda Morales had nine kills, junior Kristy Nua had eight kills, Wright had a double-double with 44 assists and 10 digs and junior libero Amy Hultner had 10 digs.

CSUN’s offense was clearly evident throughout the three games, as the Matadors hit an even .400 in the match. In fact, the Matadors hit an astounding .629 in game two.

For Riverside, junior outside hitter Kelly Fink led the Highlanders with 10 kills, followed by senior middle blocker Angie Mitchell with seven. Junior libero Kimberly McNeal had nine digs and sophomore setter Brittney Murrey had 26 assists.

With the win, the Matadors improve their record to 2-2 in conference play and 5-11 overall. The Highlanders drop to 4-10 overall and 0-3 in Big West games.

CSUN wrapped up its three-game homestand against the Cal State Fullerton Titans Tuesday night at 7 p.m.

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