Women’s volleyball captures second conference win against UC Irvine

The+women%27s+volleyball+team+celebrates+after+a+point+against+UC+Irvine+on+Oct.+18.+The+team+won+three+of+the+five+sets+to+secure+their+second+home+victory+of+the+season.+Photo+credit%3A+Serena+Christie
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Women’s volleyball captures second conference win against UC Irvine

The women's volleyball team celebrates after a point against UC Irvine on Oct. 18. The team won three of the five sets to secure their second home victory of the season. Photo credit: Serena Christie

The women's volleyball team celebrates after a point against UC Irvine on Oct. 18. The team won three of the five sets to secure their second home victory of the season. Photo credit: Serena Christie

The women's volleyball team celebrates after a point against UC Irvine on Oct. 18. The team won three of the five sets to secure their second home victory of the season. Photo credit: Serena Christie

The women's volleyball team celebrates after a point against UC Irvine on Oct. 18. The team won three of the five sets to secure their second home victory of the season. Photo credit: Serena Christie

Alexander Nino

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The CSUN women’s volleyball team started a brief two-game conference home stand with a win in five sets over the UC Irvine Anteaters, winning the sets 25-17, 22-25, 25-18, 23-25 and 15-11 on Oct. 18.

The victory evened up the all-time record between the two squads at 29 wins and 29 losses, while also ending a recent drought against Irvine (4-13, 1-4), who had swept the previous two season series against the Matadors (6-11, 1-4).

“We’re extremely happy that we’re coming out with a win,” head coach Jeff Stork said. “I think overall we played better (than past games), but this team can play better than we did tonight.”

Sophomore outside hitter Lexi McLeod echoed these sentiments, citing the 32 errors committed by the Matadors throughout the match.

“I know we can play a lot better,” McLeod said. “We kind of made a lot of errors, but we fought hard and I’m proud of us. We have a quick turnaround tomorrow night against (Cal State Fullerton), which will be a pretty tough match. I’m confident we’ll play a lot better.”

The first set began with several errors from both teams, who were each hoping to improve upon a tough start to conference play, with both squads combining for one win. The Matadors would straighten themselves out and go on several runs to create space from the Anteaters and secure the first set, 25-17.

Irvine responded by coming out strong in the second set, scoring five of the first seven points. The Matadors would recover to tie only to see the Anteaters regain a three point lead, which they would not relinquish on their way to a 25-22 win to even the match.

Play balanced out in a back-and-forth third set, which saw CSUN capitalize on some sloppy plays by the Anteaters, who recorded their match-high nine errors, marking the difference in 25-18 Matador advantage.

Irvine would not go quietly, as they mounted a late 7-1 run after being down 22-18 to secure a dramatic set four victory. The Matadors led throughout despite committing a match-high 14 errors, squandering a prime opportunity at preventing a fifth set.

CSUN recaptured momentum coming out of the break, thanks in part to miscommunication from Irvine which led to back-to-back aces to begin the frame. The Anteaters recovered, going point for point with the Matadors, until a late 4-1 run pushed CSUN to a 15-11 victory.

McLeod led the Matadors with 13 kills, while setters senior Kamalu Makekau-Whittaker and redshirt sophomore Hannah Merjil paced their squad with 28 assists each. Junior libero Makayla Bradford led CSUN with 23 digs.

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Senior Kamalu Makekau-Whittaker digs a ball against UC Irvine on Oct. 18. She had six digs and 28 assists during the game. Photo credit: Serena Christie

“We got some contributions from a lot of different places,” Stork said. “I didn’t look at the number of players that played, but that could be the most we’ve played in any match. So the contributions were from everybody, which was big.”

Although the win signified the second conference victory for the Matadors, Stork dismissed the notion that the Matadors have started slow in conference play, shifting the attention to the process rather than results.

“I don’t know if I would call it a slow start. We played (UC Santa Barbara) and Hawaii at the start and those two are leading the conference right now,” Stork said. “Santa Barbara is a very good team and we played them tough and went to five. Hawaii, there were three-deuce games. So we’re playing well. Obviously it’s not showing up in the win-loss, but we’re playing well.”

McLeod also expressed optimism over the impact this victory will have on the team’s mentality.

“We were so close to winning (the first few conference) games,” she said. “But I feel like we’ve been putting a lot of work in the gym, and tonight we just needed that little confidence boost to get us going throughout the rest of the conference.”

CSUN will look to carry that confidence into Saturday’s game against Cal State Fullerton at 7 p.m. at the Matadome.