Matadors drops two on the road

Kerstin Gupilan

Senior Tela Burnett (12), seen here in a game against Pacific, and the Matadors lost two games on the road this weekend. Photo Credit: Camille Hislop / Staff Photographer
Senior Tela Burnett (12), seen here in a game against Pacific, and the Matadors lost two games on the road this weekend. Photo Credit: Camille Hislop / Staff Photographer

It was an all too familiar weekend on the road for the Northridge women’s volleyball team as they went winless against UC Riverside Friday night and again Saturday night against UC Irvine.

The Matadors dropped their seventh of the last nine five-set matches against the Highlanders after taking a two-set advantage. UC Riverside closed the match by scores of 21-25, 20-25, 31-29, 25-23, 15-12.

“We played very well,” CSUN head coach Jeff Stork said. “We had the highest side out percentage we’ve had all year. Volleyball is a three out of five sport. Riverside played just well enough in set three and set four to turn things around.”

Northridge was able to take the first two sets by comfortable point margins but the team’s inability to produce kills at critical times proved to be the match-deciding factor.

In the first two sets the Matadors hit .344 and .306, respectively, as a team, but in the later matches would not hit higher than .278, hitting an embarrassing .087 clip in the fifth set.

Four seniors led the Highlanders for the win. Outside hitter Tonbara Youpele had 21 kills and 10 digs, Dominique Cowling chipped in 15 kills and 18 digs.

Libero Amanda Nilsson led the team with 20 digs, and setter Brittney Murrey dished out 57 assists.

“We played real hard,” said CSUN team captain Angela Hupp. “We made errors at critical times.”

Britney Graff had her seventh double-double of the season with 14 kills and 14 digs, while juniors Lynda Morales (12) and Brittany Williams (17) helped to lead Northridge’s offense in kills.

Making her solo setting debut of the season Hupp notched 57 assists while junior Karina Woerhstein and Monica McFarland each had 12 digs, McFarland also had two of the team’s three aces.

Stork recently made the decision to make Hupp the lone setter over sophomore Sam Orlandini in order to allow Morales back into the middle blocking position. Northridge previously ran a 6-2 offense that would have Hupp hitting half the time, but setting the other half.

“I’m a setter at heart, but I love hitting … I never get bored,” Hupp said. “I told Jeff (Stork) I’ll do whatever the team needs me to do.”

Saturday night at UC Irvine Northridge would be given the opportunity on a few occasions to take the first two sets, but was unable to capitalize losing in three straight sets by scores of 26-24, 26-24, 25-17.

“Northridge is a very good team,” UCI head coach Paula Weishoff said prior to the match. “We know what they’re going to bring and they know what we’re going to bring. We’ll see who can execute better.”

In the first set Northridge would rally a 17-22 to give the Matadors the set’s first set point at 24-22, but two Irvine blocks and a Northridge four-contact violation would give the Anteaters the match at 26-24.

Late in the first set Williams was injured after coming off a crucial kill and would sit out the rest of the match.

The second set looked identical to the first, only the first set point was for the Anteaters. A kill by CSUN middle blocker Chelsea Johnson would tie the score at 24, but back-to-back Irvine kills closed the set at 26-24.

Irvine controlled much of set three and with the score at 16-13 the Matadors would only score four more points and the Anteaters would run away with the game 25-17.

“We’re playing very good volleyball,” Stork said. “Like tonight pushing it to two deux points … I’m proud of what they did.”

Morales had 11 kills and Hupp had seven kills, 17 assists and nine digs. Graff added six kills and eight digs, while Orlandini had 11 assists.

Juliane Piggot led Irvine with 18 kills, and Larissa Nordyke added 11. Taryn Robertson had 38 assists.

Northridge will host Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State next weekend at the Matadome in its last home conference games of the season.