The CSUN women’s volleyball team is packing up its gym bags and hitting the road for the next three weekends to officially kick off their season. The Matadors open the year in Boise Idaho, where they will play three games in the Bronco Invitational. The Matadors first are scheduled to face the University of Tulsa, Friday at 4 p.m. The next day CSUN faces Northern Arizona at 10 am, and then moves on to a match against the hosting school, Boise State at 7 pm.
Though the match against the host Broncos guarantees a larger audience (something CSUN head coach Jeff Stork said the girls enjoy), Tulsa is a much more appealing opponent.
“(We) look forward to playing Tulsa,” coach Stork said. “Tulsa is the strongest out of the three teams. They have a higher RPI (rating percentage index) than we do.”
For head coach Jeff Stork and his players, this is more than just a chance to see the sights away from Southern California.
“We certainly want to gain rhythm and solidify a starting lineup,” Stork said. “These next nine matches prior to the season are critical, getting dialed into conference and postseason consideration.”
Although Stork wants to make sure that all his players are well-rounded, for the past few weeks the Matadors have been focusing tirelessly on the defensive aspect of the game. They have been spending a significant amount of time building their blocking and digging abilities. Only recently have they switched their focus to offense, usually practicing six-on-six drills to emphasize the importance of transitioning from defense to offense.
“There are variations of the six basic skills (serve, pass, set, attack, block, dig) ,” Stork said. “Teams win a lot at serving and passing, terminating the ball. We need to be able to do that.”
The Matadors have their work cut out for them: Six-foot sophomore Jennifer Eichler is returning at the outside hitter/opposite position for Tulsa, and last season Eichler led her team with 403 kills — the fifth-most in Tulsa school history. The Matadors must also work their way around six-foot-two sophomore middle blocker Julia Kenealy, who led the 2008 team with 130 total blocks.
Even though Northern Arizona isn’t a house held name, CSUN should expect a tough game against the Lumberjacks. Last season Northern Arizona had a winning record of 15-10.
Boise State will probably be the easiest match for the Matadors this weekend, even though the Broncos will have the home court advantage. The Broncos had a losing record of 9-19 last season.
Stork believes that his players are well-prepared to handle these opponents. Stork said that the girls have worked hard these past few weeks, even with about 30 percent of them fighting injuries. He said he has plenty of faith that the team will do the best it can.
“I want our players to be ready mentally,” he said. “Physically we’re ready.”