CSUN head coach Jeff Stork and his women’s volleyball team ended the 2011 season with the third-place spot in the Big West Conference.
After finishing the year with an overall record of 16-13 and 9-7 in the Big West, Stork is looking to build on what he said was a great season.
“We had been going through some adjustments of decreased funding for the past four to five years and we were able to do some things that were above and beyond what the expectations were based on the support we were getting,” Stork said. “There’s a pretty big turnaround in what happened from the previous two years.”
The Matadors had a chance to tie for second place at the end of the season, but going 5-2 in the month of November wasn’t enough to seize the spot. UC Santa Barbara was the only team in their way, serving them those two losses that month.
“We got better as the season wore on,” Stork said. “The match that got away from us was the Santa Barbara five-game loss. We played extremely well through the entire match and weren’t able to capitalize on one or two plays in the fifth set.”
With only two seniors graduating from his squad, Stork is left with a relatively young team. Opposite Natalie Allen, outside hitter Mahina Haina and middle blocker Casey Hinger were the team’s go-to players last year, but Stork isn’t going to rely on only those three to have a successful season.
“Being a team game, we rely on everybody. That’s top to bottom” he said.
Stork continued to list the players he thought contributed to his team’s success, reinforcing his stance on their performance last year.
“While we were very young last year, we were very good,” he said. “Our expectations are even greater this year because they’re more seasoned and we don’t lose any starters … plus the development of the other players on the team has been tremendous.”
The Matadors (4-4-2, 8-8-3) ended last season with a 2-1 win over Big West rival Cal State Fullerton and will have most of the same players returning to the squad for the 2012 campaign, as only three players are graduating.
The loss of midfielder Rafael Garcia to the L.A. Galaxy will shake up the roster but head coach Terry Davila is certain the Matadors have what it takes to make a run in 2012.
“It’s hard to replace (Garcia),” Davila said. “We’re never going to replace him, but we have someone that’s going to fit his role in Rene Anguiano.”
After starting 17 games and notching three assists in 2011, Anguiano will be entering his senior season with CSUN and take a majority of the minutes that belonged to Garcia.
“(Anguiano) will lead our team and organize our defense and he’s a great player. We expect big things out of him,” Davila said.
Co-captain Joe Franco will hold down the defense with Michael Abalos returning as goalkeeper.
“We’re expecting them to be one year older and one year better,” Davila said.
CSUN (7-10-2, 4-3-1) finished last season third in the Big West but will have to produce an encore season in 2012 with one of the toughest schedules in recent history.
The Matadors’ first half of the schedule is filled with games against top-25 and top-50 teams, including matchups against Arizona State and San Diego.
Forward Melissa Fernandez returns for her senior year and will carry much of the offensive load for head coach Keith West.
“(Fernandez) is a creator,” West said. “She does a lot for our offense. She’s a super talented player and I can tell you we’re expecting some big, big things out of her, but at the same time she’s going to need a team behind her to really make a push.”
The Matadors will also have Cynthia Jacobo back in goal after making 60 saves in 18 starts for a 6-10-2 record in her appearances.
Northridge has nine freshmen coming in for 2012 and the coaches are looking for them to contribute instantly.
“Obviously, I recruited them — so I liked them,” West said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to watch them in one or two games, and I think this class is going to turn some eyebrows.”