After going 0-3 at the USF Asics/Coca-Cola Challenge last weekend, the Cal State Northridge women’s volleyball team (2-4) has hit a tournament lull. But with the upcoming Nike Cougar Challenge in Pullman, Wash., the Matadors hope to improve not only on their record but also their game.
“We learned a lot about ourselves,” head coach Jeff Stork said. “We knew it would be a tougher tournament. We played three different styles of teams. (Our) progression is good, we learned a lot about where we are. We just need to work harder and focus,” Stork said about the unsuccessful weekend in San Francisco.
Next up for the Matadors at the Nike Cougar Challenge are the Cougars of Washington State University (7-0), who is hosting the tournament, and the Vandals of the University of Idaho (4-2). CSUN will play WSU twice in the tournament, once Friday afternoon and again Saturday evening, rather than a third team. Playing the same team twice in the same tournament is something Stork sees as beneficial.
“(This format) matches up with (the Big West) conference, playing as home and away. We can watch tape and make adjustments the next time we play them,” Stork said.
Beating the Cougars will be no easy task for the Matadors as they have only lost a total of two sets, and are undefeated so far this season.
Contributing to the Cougars success is current kills leader, senior outside hitter Jackie Albright. Albright has 82 kills on the season and is hitting at a .258 percentage. With three years experience at the collegiate level, Albright has so far racked up 649 kills and counting.
The other dominating force in the Courgars’ offense, as well as on defense, is junior middle blocker Brittany Tillman. For the season Tillman has 62 kills and is the leading blocker on the team with 10 blocks. Also she is hitting at an impressive .397 percentage.
Dishing out the ball to these two on-court powerhouse hitters is senior setter Renee Bordelon who has 242 assists this season. Cleaning up the back row defensively is freshmen libero Oceana Bush who has tallied 72 in the last seven matches.
Between the matches against WSU, CSUN will play the University of Idaho at noon on Saturday. Idaho recently beat Loyola Marymount University in five sets, a common opponent that the Matadors will face the week after the Cougar Challenge.
Leading the Vandals of Idaho in the kills department is a duo outside hitters, senior Sarah Conwell and sophomore Alicia Milo. Conwell is credited with 84 kills and a .238 hitting percentage, while Milo tallies 59 and a .199 hitting percentage so far this season. Sophomore Cassie Hamilton, another outside hitter, leads the team in aces with 11.
Racking up the stats on the defensive end are senior middle blocker Anna McKinney and senior defensive specialist Meredith Rice. McKinney boasts an impressive 37 blocks, three of which were solo. Rice has accumulated 84 digs in the last six matches.
Playing such tough competitors doesn’t seem to have shaken Stork too much, he is confident that the girls are doing all they can to play well.
“We will do more of the same things. We train well and compete hard in practice against each other. We just need to make quicker adjustments (against opponents),” Stork said.
Solidifying a line up for the season was a major goal Stork had before the year started and as of now six positions have been filled. The second middle blocker position is still up for grabs due to ongoing injuries and a defensive specialist may be used in the back row for one of the outside hitters.