With the regular season coming to a close, the Northridge women’s volleyball team will hit the road for matches at UC Riverside (4-17, 2-9 Big West) and UC Irvine (18-6, 7-4 Big West) this weekend.
Northridge is coming off its third straight loss during a four-game homestand after a subpar performance against UC Santa Barbara Tuesday night at the Matadome.
The Last time Northridge hit such a slump was a five-match losing streak spanning late September to early October, before Northridge defeated UCR in four sets during their first meeting.
“I think two on the road matches is a better thing,” CSUN head coach Jeff Stork said. “Getting away from the familiar.”
The Highlanders are currently coming off a mixed Halloween weekend first defeating Pacific in five sets before dropping three straight to Davis the following night.
Senior outside hitter Dominique Cowling leads the Highlanders with 281 kills, effectively placing her fourth in the Big West.
The highest ranking Highlander in the Big West on any list is freshman Bianca Endersby, who is currently in second place on the blocks list, just behind CSUN’s Tela Burnett.
“I expect (CSUN) to be well-coached and a good blocking team,” UC Riverside head coach Ron Larsen said prior to the teams’ first meeting. “They have a couple girls who can get on the ball … we have to be able to serve and pass at the same level as CSUN in order to (compete).”
Saturday night the Matadors will travel to Irvine to play the Anteaters, who are currently listed in the top four of the Big West.
The Anteaters are coming off a two-match loss, their longest losing streak of the season, after losing to Pacific and UC Davis. Irvine was able to defeat Northridge in four sets in their first meeting.
Irvine has three players on the Big West stats lists, with junior outside hitter Kari Pestolesi notching spots on three separate lists.
Pestolesi ranks fourth in aces (34) and is tied for seventh in digs (343) with Avreeta Singh of UC Davis.
Senior setter Taryn Robertson ranks sixth in assists (876) and tenth in aces (24) and freshman libero Kristin Winkler’s 362 digs has put her fifth on the digs list.
“Northridge is a very good blocking team,” said Paula Weishoff. “It all comes down to serving and passing and who can execute better.”
Despite what the stats indicate, Northridge will have to focus on its side of the net in order to stand a chance against UC Riverside and UC Irvine.
With outside hitter Britney Graff making her comeback in the match against UC Santa Barbara after injuring her knee the Matadors may be up to the challenge.
Senior outside hitter Angela Hupp still leads the Matadors in kills (298) with junior Brittany Williams hot on her heals (245). Sophomore setter Sam Orlandini has 722 assists this season and Burnett leads in blocks with 101 total blocks.
“For us it’s expecting to play the best team in the world,” said Stork. “Teams will feel confident playing us … we’re certainly a better volleyball team than our record is.”
Northridge will continue conference play when they host Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton next weekend, the two-game homestand marks the Matadors’ last conference home games.