Matadors split final homestand of the year

Kerstin Gupilan

Lynda Morales, center, and the Matadors split their final two games of the regular season last weekend. Photo Credit: Alan Fassonaki / Staff Photographer
Lynda Morales, center, and the Matadors split their final two games of the regular season last weekend. Photo Credit: Alan Fassonaki / Staff Photographer

In its final two home matches of the regular season, the Northridge women’s volleyball team pulled off a stunning five-set upset over dominating Long Beach only to drop three straight sets to Cal State Fullerton the very next night.

With the mixed results, the Matadors record now stands at 8-20 overall and 4-10 in the Big West. Northridge defeated Long Beach by scores of 25-23, 18-25, 17-25, 25-22, 18-16.

“I think that (we) played real well,” CSUN head coach Jeff Stork said. “Athletes have to deal with a lot of pressures. Some are affected at the beginning, some in the middle and some at the end. (They) did a good job handling the pressure, well, just well enough.”

Long Beach went into the Matadome Friday night as the Big West’s top-ranked team, but even with the loss its record of 17-7 and 10-4 in conference keeps them comfortably at the top.

“It felt so good (to win),” team captain Angela Hupp said. “We were so relaxed before the game … not unfocused relaxed, focused relaxed. We just played together.”

Northridge and Long Beach took turns siding out throughout the entire first set, with neither team scoring more than three consecutive points. The Matadors were able to just sideout enough times to take the set.

In sets two and three the 49ers seemed to regain some of their dominance as they outhit Northridge. The Matadors were held to a .188 and .156 hitting clip in sets two and three, while Long Beach soared to .324 and .462 in the same sets.

The pivotal fourth set resembled the first, as Northridge kept the score close up until the very end. Although they only hit .154, Long Beach swung at an even lower .118 percent.

Set five was a nail biter from the onset with the score tying 15 times and seven lead changes. The Matadors looked to finish the game with match point at 14-13, but Long Beach rallied to knot the score at 14 and send the game into overtime.

With the score tied at 16 a Niner hitting error followed by a Lynda Morales kill would hand the Matadors the victory.

“I knew the game was on the line and I had to make this play,” said Morales. “I had to put the ball down somehow.”

Caitlin Ledoux led the Beach with 21 kills and 19 digs.

For Northridge Britney Graff had 16 kills and 10 digs, Hupp had 44 assists and Monica McFarland had 19 digs.

The following night, the Matadors honored three players who would not be coming back next season. Graduating seniors Hupp and middle blocker Tela Burnett were thanked for their years of dedication by the players and coaching staff.

Junior Siara Grayson was also honored for her three seasons on the team. Due to an ongoing injury Grayson will not continue as a Matador.

The results of the match, however, were not ideal for a farewell. Fullerton defeated Northridge by scores of 26-24, 25-19, 25-18. Fullerton now stands at 8-20 overall 4-10 in conference.

In the first set Northridge looked to have a good fighting chance, coming back from deficits at 9-6 and again rallying from 21-18 to bring the Matadors back into the game. With the score knotted at 24, a Fullerton kill and block would take the set.

Sets two and three were controlled by Fullerton, with Northridge never finding a steady rhythm.

In a last ditch effort to rally some points, Hupp was moved from setting to hitting. But her efforts were a little too late. The final two points of the match were scored by Fullerton off of Hupp hitting errors.

“We didn’t flow tonight, didn’t really connect,” Hupp said. “(The) last two plays were errors by me…(I) would rather it be by me.”

Morales led Northridge with eight kills, Burnett had six kills and nine blocks.

“More than anything the passing was not up to (our standard),” Stork said. “Twelve, nine, eight kills a set is not enough. We were out of system (most) of the time.”

The Matadors will play their final two matches on the road versus Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara.