CSUN comes away with a split against Big West foes

Kerstin Gupilan

The Matadors, seen in last Wednesday's game against UC Irvine, lost in five sets to Cal Poly on Friday. Photo Credit: Alan Fassonaki / Sundial File Photo
The Matadors, seen in last Wednesday's game against UC Irvine, lost in five sets to Cal Poly on Friday. Photo Credit: Alan Fassonaki / Sundial File Photo

The one thing the Cal State Northridge women’s volleyball team can guarantee from their weekend matches is that they will always keep the crowd guessing, as they did this past weekend splitting matches against Cal Poly and UC Riverside.

The Matadors’ mixed weekend included giving up a 2-0 set advantage in yet another five-set loss to Cal Poly (6-13, Big West 2-4) and then dropping the first set to Riverside (2-13, 0-5) before taking the final three the next day.

“Volleyball is not a very complicated sport,” CSUN head coach Jeff Stork said.  “You pass, set and hit.  Its complexities is that it’s a rebound sport … you don’t know where it’s going to go.”

Friday night Northridge (5-13, 1-4) squared off against the Mustangs of Cal Poly and looked to take the match easily with a two-set advantage.  But true to form, the Matadors were somehow able to find a way to keep the match interesting when they dropped the following three sets to let the Mustangs run away with the victory with scores of 16-25, 23-25, 25-17, 25-20, 15-11.

“Horrible.  Absolutely horrible,” said senior outside hitter and team captain Angela Hupp about the disappointing outcome.  “I made mistakes when the team counted on me … (it was) just bad.”

Hitting proved to be the major decider in the match with Northridge hitting at least at a .300 percentage in the first two sets, even keeping Cal Poly at a .094 hitting clip in the first set alone.  However, in sets 3-5 things dramatically shifted in the Mustang’s direction with Northridge hitting at .083 and .121 in sets three and four, respectively.  In set five, the Matadors were only able to find the ball four times.

The Matadors’ lackluster attacking numbers combined with multiple service errors and Cal Poly finding a steady rhythm, left Northridge unable to capitalize on their two-set advantage.

Freshman outside hitter Megan McConnell led the Mustangs with a career-high 22 kills and fellow freshman Jennifer Keddy added a still impressive 12 kills.

For Northridge, freshman Britney Graff had a double-double with 15 kills (.205) and 15 digs to lead the team, while junior Brittany Williams added 13 kills (.200) and nine digs. Hupp, usually at the forefront of the Matadors’ offense, still tallied 10 kills and 31 assists.

Saturday night, while warming up in front of a crowd of 317 with the all-inspiring “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey playing in the background, the atmosphere in the Matadome seemed more than tense. On the tail of a five-match losing streak, the Matadors were desperate for a win against UC Riverside, which they would eventually get by scores of 18-25, 25-17, 25-20, 25-20.

“We want consistency,” said Stork.  “We want to give our opponent the opportunity to make errors.”

Only hitting at .158 percent during the first set, the Matadors seemed to have carried the previous night’s match with them onto the court.  Inconsistent passing made it more than difficult for Hupp and Sam Orlandini to run an effective offense and opened up the door for the Highlanders to take the set 25-18.

The next three sets saw a different Northridge team as they finally began to stabilize their passing and run a more consistent offense.  Hupp and Williams led the Matadors in kills with both notching 12 for the night.  Graff tallied another 11 kills and 10 digs for the Matadors.

Throughout the four-set match the score was tied 22 times and the lead changed 14 times, but the Matadors held the Highlanders off by barely outscoring Riverside 67.5 to 61.

“(It feels) so good,” said Williams.  “We’ve been trying to get over this hill and it just feels so good because we played well tonight.”

Senior outside hitter Tonbara Youpele and freshman middle blocker Bianca Endersby led the Highlanders with 9 kills a piece.

“(It’s a) better feeling than last night,” Stork said of the victory.  “The girls needed this and they fought for it.”