CSUN women’s volleyball stresses offense for upcoming season

Julio Alberto Cruz

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After finishing the 2009 season with a disappointing 8-22 overall record and a 4-12 Big West Conference record, the CSUN women’s volleyball team is looking ahead to the upcoming season with optimism.

“I’m expecting a lot from this team,” junior setter Sam Orlandini said. “I think we can be much better.”

In order to be a better team, the Matadors have been having two practices a day for the past couple of weeks.

“We’ve been working on improving our terminal hitting and our offense,” said Jeff Stork, who is entering his ninth season as head coach.  “Last season we were a good defensive team, but our offense was not as good. We were in the bottom three (in the Big West) in offense and you win matches by playing good offense.”

The Matadors will look to improve their offense by adding freshmen Natalie Allen, Nicole Jarvis and Mahina Haina. Sophomore outside hitter Britney Graff, who was a 2009 Big West All-Freshman selection, will also be a big part of the offense.

Even with the addition of the incoming freshman class, CSUN was predicted to finish tied for eight in the Big West preseason poll.

“Polls are just predictions,” Stork said. “Nothing is decided until we play.”

“I think we can finish in the top half of the conference,” said senior middle blocker Lynda Morales, who will be providing leadership. “I’m looking forward to proving that we are better.”

Finishing in the top half of the Big West will be a daunting task for the Matadors after losing their arguably best player of last season, Angela Hupp, to graduation.

“We did lose a good player in Angela, but we’ve added a freshman, Natalie (Allen), to replace her,” said Orlandini, who finished last year with 742 assists. “We tried really hard last year, but this year we are going on a different direction, focusing on the basics of the game.”

One thing the Matadors need to focus on is prevailing when games go down to the wire.

“We lost nine games (last season) that had five matches,” Stork said. “Those were big games that we lost.”

Senior Brittany Williams is looking at the bright side.

“We did lose a few close games last year but we are trying to build on that,” said Williams, who had 267 kills a year ago. “We have to break it down game to game, playing each one at a time.”

The Matadors start the season Aug. 27 against San Diego State in the Aztec Invitational, followed by two more tournaments.

“We will use the upcoming tournament to bond with the new players to start playing well,” Morales said.

The first game at the Matadome will take place Sept. 14 against UCLA, who they haven’t faced since 2008 when they lost in straight sets.

Conference play starts Sept. 24 against UC Santa Barbara at CSUN.

“The Big West Conference is up for grabs, anyone can be beat,” Orlandini said. “It’s a competitive conference and we are looking forward to it.”