Two seniors will be honored this weekend when the Northridge women’s volleyball team hosts its final two home games of the regular season at the Matadome.
Team captain Angela Hupp and middle blocker Tela Burnett will play their final home matches as the Matadors go against Long Beach State Friday and Cal State Fullerton Saturday.
The two-match homestand will be difficult for the Matadors with junior outside hitter Brittany Williams injured during a match at UC Irvine last Saturday, and freshman outside hitter Britney Graff still on the mend.
Long Beach is coming off a sweeping victory over the Big West’s formerly top-ranked UC Davis. The win for the 49ers improves their record to 16-6 and 9-3 in the Big West, effectively placing them No. 1 in the conference.
Davis has since dropped to third in the conference just behind UC Santa Barbara, proving that Big West women’s volleyball standings can change on a weekly basis.
“Long Beach is not doing anything real different,” CSUN head coach Jeff Stork said. “They try to start play with a good first contact and create good offense.”
Whatever it is the Beach is doing, it’s certainly getting the job done. During their first meeting in mid-October the 49ers swept the Matadors at the Pyramid.
Senior outside hitter Naomi Washington leads the team and ranks third in the Big West with 326 kills, averaging 4.07 kills a set (.252). Washington also leads the 49ers with 16 aces.
Just behind Washington is sophomore outside hitter Caitlin Ledoux with 267 kills (.236) and 15 aces. Junior Ashley Lee ranks fourth in Big West with 828 assists averaging 10.35 a set, which is pretty impressive considering that Lee is listed on the roster as an outside hitter.
On the defensive end, Long Beach has two sophomores on two top-10 lists for the Big West. Middle blocker Michelle Osunbor is fifth in the conference with 83 total blocks, 13 solo, and defensive specialist Lauren Minkel ranks four with 330 digs.
“Long Beach is not playing as crisply as before,” Stork said. “(They) don’t change much system-wise.”
He also said that the 49ers will rely heavily on Washington and Ledoux, as well as senior middle blocker Brittney Herzog.
Saturday night Northridge will take on the Titans, who are riding a current three-match win streak, beating Davis and Pacific along the way, with a 15-10 overall record and going 6-6 in the Big West.
But the Titans’ current 1-7 road record may be something Northridge is able to capitalize on.
“I’m excited,” said Burnett. “It’s kind of good knowing we’re playing Fullerton (Saturday)…we’re expecting to perform well and win.”
In their last meeting Fullerton pushed four sets, but the Matadors were able to prevail at Titan Gym.
Fullerton boasts two players ranking No. 1 in the conference on two individual lists. Sophomore setter Andrea Ragan leads with 1036 assists and junior defensive specialist/libero Cami Croteau has 479 digs.
Junior middle blocker Erin Saddler is in second place for kills with 403 and fifth in aces with 27, and freshman outside hitter/middle blocker Kayla Neto has the fifth highest hitting percentage with .325 and 251 kills.
“Just trying to produce wins,” Stork said. “There are a lot of possibilities playing at home and the team is gelling despite the matches we’ve had.”
For Northridge these final two weeks of conference play marks a time to finish with as strong a record as possible.
With various injuries and questionable performances frequently changing the Northridge lineup, the Matadors no longer have any representation on the conference’s kills list.
Even so, Burnett is still ranked No. 1 with 108 total blocks and sophomore setter Sam Orlandini is just hanging on to the assists list with 733. Freshman libero Monica McFarland sits comfortably in the top-10 with 363 digs.
“I feel like it’s Homecoming week of high school,” Hupp said. “I’m excited to play and leave it all out there. I just want to go out and do what I know how to do.”