For the first time in a little over a month, the Northridge women’s volleyball team had a reason to celebrate.
On Saturday, after 12 disappointing losses, four of them being sweeps and three coming in the five-set, heartbreaking fashion, the Matadors (5-16, 1-7 Big West) pulled off an upset against one of the top teams in the Big West Conference and let out a massive sigh of relief.
Northridge’s streak is no longer 12. After defeating the Pacific Tigers by scores of 26-24, 27-25, 18-25 and 27-25, the streak is +1. The win was Northridge’s first at the Matadome this season and also No. 1 in conference play.
‘It feels good,’ said junior outside hitter Angela Hupp, who scored the game-winning point. ‘We just wanted to have some fun and relax a little bit.’
‘They are outstanding student-athletes and they have always had the drive to win,’ Northridge Head Coach Jeff Stork said. ‘We played well in every aspect.’
The opening set was a tightly contested one, in which there were 11 ties and five lead changes. The Tigers jumped out to a 6-1 lead, but the Matadors had a run and eventually tied it at 11. The set went back and forth from then on. With the two teams tied at 23, setter Kayla Wright scored a kill, but the Tigers tied it again. Northridge took the next point for another opportunity at the set, and this time Hupp closed it out with one of her 16 kills of the match.
The second set was another nail-biter. The teams were again tied late in the match. This time, Pacific scored the go-ahead point at 24-23 but Northridge answered with two straight. A Matadors service error tied up the score, but they quickly got over it and scored the next two points for a 2-0 set lead.
In past matches, a service error on set-point perhaps would have caused Northridge to let the mistake get in its head, but not this time. The Matadors were relaxed.
‘Their emotional drive was the best I’ve seen,’ Stork said. ‘It’s as free as they’ve played.’
Pacific rebounded, though, and took the third set without major complications. They led most of the way in a set that saw four ties and two lead changes. A far cry from the first two sets.
The Tigers did everything they could to force a fifth set, but the Matadors answered every time. Neither team held a lead they could feel comfortable with. The teams were tied on 19 different occasions. The lead changed hands nine times. Both teams wanted the set, but the Matadors’ will was just stronger on this night. With the teams tied at 25, Northridge scored the two crucial points they needed, another positive change. In recent matches, they had struggled to score the points that mattered most.
Then again, it was a different team out there.
‘(Pacific’s) a tough team, but we played them tough,’ Stork said.
‘There’s more pressure on the other team to lose to a losing team,’ said Hupp.
The win came a day after Northridge lost to UC Davis in the second game of the three-match home stand. Something had to give. The Aggies and Matadors went into the game winless in the Big West. When it was all said and done, the Aggies picked up the win, sweeping the Matadors by scores of 25-22, 26-24 and 25-20 with University President Dr. Jolene Koester on the Northridge bench as a special assistant coach. It was the eighth time Northridge had been swept this season.
Northridge had a 17-13 advantage in the opening set until sophomore Melanie Adams served up six straight points to help the Aggies flip the deficit into a 20-17 lead. They didn’t relinquish the advantage.
The teams traded blows in the second set and were tied eight different times, the last being a 24-24 standoff. Keala Peterson delivered a kill to provide a set-point for UC Davis, then setter Carson Lowden and middle blocker Tori Hooper teamed up for a block against Brittany Williams for the winning point.
Northridge held early third-set leads of 5-1 and 7-3. Then UC Davis used a 6-2 run to pull even at 9-9. The set stayed close until the Aggies had an 8-1 run to get the set out of the Matadors’ reach
The next night, however, the Matadors were finally able to put a band-aid on what had been a painful, disappointing 12-game stretch.
Northridge will next travel to San Luis Obispo to take on Cal Poly Friday night.