Teams that have faced the CSUN women’s volleyball team this year are quickly finding out one thing – getting the ball to the Matadors’ side of the court can be pretty tough.
The Matadors posted 23.5 blocks and 43 blocks assists against the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos at the Matadome Saturday night, as the Matadors defeated the Gauchos in a thrilling five-game match.
“Our blocking is on fire,” junior middle blocker Val Kepler said. “A big part of it is our confidence. We have a lot of confidence in ourselves. Lynda (Morales) and I are doing a really good job controlling the net and our main blockers are amazing.”
The 43 block assists are second all-time in the Matador record books and shatters the record of 34 block assists in rally scoring. CSUN’s win over UC Santa Barbara also completed a sweep of the season series for the first time in the program’s history.
“I’m real happy with what we’re doing blocking-wise and how we’re also getting a lot of deflections as well, just slowing the ball down and getting opportunities to swing at the ball,” head coach Jeff Stork said. “So, I think our blocking is in a real good spot right now.”
The Matadors led 8-7 in game one before the Gauchos won five straight sets to take a 12-8 lead. CSUN tried to stay with Santa Barbara, but they were able to hold the lead the rest of the match and finish with a 30-21 win.
Northridge flipped the script in game two, jumping out to a 3-0 lead. The Matadors were just getting started, as they ran out to a 9-2 lead, forcing a Gaucho timeout. CSUN continued to stay hot, moving out to a 14-7 lead, forcing another UCSB timeout and winning two more sets following the break to stretch its advantage to nine at 16-7. The Matadors led 19-10 when they won six straight sets to open up a 25-10 lead, their largest of game two, and then winning 30-16.
In game three, the Gauchos led for most of the match, though CSUN kept them within sight. Then, with Santa Barbara leading 18-15, Northridge won three straight sets to tie the game and force a Gaucho timeout. Santa Barbara regained the lead after the break, but sophomore Angela Hupp smashed consecutive kills to give the Matadors the lead. The lead didn’t last though, as the Gauchos won four straight sets to take a 23-20 lead, forcing a CSUN timeout. The Gauchos followed with two more points to force another Matador timeout and UC Santa Barbara coasted to another 30-21 win.
Game four was close early on. The Matadors led by no more than two points and Santa Barbara led twice early in the fourth game. Then with the game tied at 11, CSUN won five of the next six sets to lead 16-12, forcing a Santa Barbara timeout. The Matadors later moved out to a 25-18 lead, forcing another Gaucho timeout, but Santa Barbara came out of the break strong, winning the next four sets to force a Matador timeout. Santa Barbara got another point, but then freshman outside hitter Brittany Williams got two kills in the next three sets to keep the Matadors in front for good, and forcing a fifth game with a 30-26 win.
Game five was again close, as both teams fought to come out of the Matadome with a win. Santa Barbara led 10-8 until freshman outside hitter Alex Johnson smashed a kill and on the next set, teamed with Kepler to block a Gaucho attack. Kayla Wright aced a serve on the next set to put CSUN in front 11-10 and forcing a Gaucho timeout. Hupp and Kepler returned a Gaucho attack to make it a two-point game, then the Gauchos won two of three to stay alive. But, a Williams kill put the Matadors at game point and Hupp and Morales teamed for another Matador kill-block to seal the match.
“Sometimes we have roller coasters, but our intensity stayed up,” Williams said.
A pair of freshmen led the way for the Matadors, as Johnson had a team-high 17 kills and Williams had 16. Hupp had another triple-double, posting 10 kills, 27 assists and 12 digs. Wright had 25 assists and junior libero Amy Hultner had 21 digs.
For Santa Barbara, Lauren McLaughlin had 20 kills and 18 digs, Rebecca Saraceno had 16 kills and 10 digs and Dana Vargas had 43 assists.
“We just wanted it more than anything,” Wright said.
CSUN was also bolstered by support from the men’s volleyball team, who came dressed in costumes and made their voices heard at the Matadome. Also joining in were members of the swim team and the women’s basketball team.
“The fan support is always awesome,” Kepler said. “I think our team feeds off that. When they come to our games we play much better. We have a good fan base and it feels good.”
The Matadors now head out on the road for two games this week, starting with a trip to UC Riverside to face the Highlanders on Oct. 26, followed by a trip to UC Irvine to face the 6-2 Anteaters on Oct. 27.
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