Matadors face the top teams in the Big West this weekend

Kerstin Gupilan

The Matador women's volleyball team. Photo Credit: Charlie Landon /Staff Reporter
The Northridge women's volleyball team. Photo Credit: Charlie Landon /Staff Reporter

The Northridge women’s volleyball team will hit the road this weekend to face off against Cal State Fullerton (11-7, Big West 2-3) before heading to the Pyramid to take on Long Beach State (11-4, 4-1).

The Matadors (5-13, 1-4) are coming off their first conference win of the season against UC Riverside and are looking to get a winning streak going beyond two matches.

But with both Fullerton and Long Beach on the positive side of an overall record, this task may be too much for the Matadors to handle.

“(We’re) 1-4 in conference. There’s a lot of parity in this conference,” CSUN head coach Jeff Stork said. “These are two matches we can win. We just have to do a better job keeping the ball in play in bad situations.”

In conference, Titans have only lost to teams who are currently in the top half of the Big West conference. However, Fullerton has only dropped one match so far at Titan Gym.

With only three seniors and four juniors listed on their roster, the Titans boast a team stock-full of talented young players, including 6-foot-2 sophomore middle blocker Kayla Neto who leads the team in blocks with 59, nine of which she acquired solo.

Neto is joined at the net by 6-foot-3 junior middle blocker Erin Saddler, who has notched 301 kills and 21 aces to lead the Titans.

“Fullerton has an experienced crew,” Stork said. “They have a good outside, middle and setter. They beat teams with speed, especially in transition. But I think they’re not that quick to the outside, they tend to guess in certain plays.”

Saturday will see the Matadors go up against the 49ers who are currently tied for first place in the Big West. Long Beach is coming off of a four-set loss to Pacific, effectively ending their seven-match win streak.

“(They’re a) team that’s quite unique in systems they run,” Stork said. “We have to do a good job in scouting them and let the players know about their uniqueness.”

Last season Northridge somehow was able to defeat the then-No. 23 Niners in one of their meetings.

“They (Long Beach) just got beat. We’ve done a good job this season knowing that any team is beatable,” CSUN senior outside hitter and team captain Angela Hupp said.

The team approaches each practice with the mentality that every game is winnable, she said.

“(There are) no differences only because practice has been really good,” Hupp said of whether the team has altered anything in practice.

Coach Stork feels that these two teams are going to be tough but it gives them a chance to improve their game.

“At the end of the day, they’ll both be a challenge,” Stork said of this weekend’s matches. “We may not be perfect but we are getting better. We just need a few more kills in any given set.”

The Matadors will host Pacific and UC Davis next weekend to kickoff the second half of the season.