CSUN looks to build chemistry in first tourney

Julio Alberto Cruz

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The CSUN women’s volleyball team opens its 2010 season with a trip down south to compete in the Aztec Invitational on the campus of San Diego State University.

The Matadors begin the tournament Friday, taking on the hosting Aztecs and finishing with a doubleheader Saturday against Cincinnati and Northern Colorado

The Matadors will face San Diego State for the second consecutive season, after losing to the Aztecs 3-1 last year.

“It’s not the same two teams as last year,” CSUN head coach Jeff Stork said. “Both teams have 3 or 4 different starters and we’ve improved a lot since playing them last.”

The Aztecs, who had a 14-15 overall  record last season, are predicted to finish sixth in the Mountain West Conference. As a team they had 1,520 kills, 1,413 assists and had 667 errors.

The Aztecs are returning senior middle blocker Lauren Salisbury. Salisbury was named to the 2010 preseason All-Mountain West Conference Volleyball Team and was also an all-conference selection in 2008 and 2009.

“Lauren is a very dynamic offensive player for them,” Stork said. “She does a terrific job for them.”

Following Salisbury is sophomore Andrea Hannasch, who had 278 kills and 122 block assists.

The Matadors’ toughest opponent this weekend will be Cincinnati, who is coming off back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances and is predicted to win the Big East Conference. The Matadors will try to showcase their blocking, which they have been working on during practices, against Cincinnati’s preseason Big West Conference Player of the Year, Stephanie Niemer.

Niemer had 541 kills, 27 assist and 301 digs. Following  her was outside hitter Missy Harpenau with 375 kills and 408 digs.

CSUN’s final game of the invitational comes against Northern Colorado, who is predicted to finish third in the Big Sky Conference.

They went 21-12 overall and 12-4 in conference play a year ago, which led the Bears to win their first conference championship and advance to the NCAA Tournament, where they lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Northern Colorado graduated its best players in Allison Raguse, Kenzie Shreeve, Taylor Smith and Breanna VanDerMost.

“They lose experience with those players gone, we lost some experience also with Angela Hupp and the other seniors who graduated,” Stork said.  “We can’t worry about what other teams are doing, we have to worry about the way we present ourselves to other teams. We have to execute and if we do that, we will succeed in the tournament.”

The Matadors will look to use this tournament as a tune-up for the upcoming Big West season and to build chemistry with the newly added players.

It will also be the first time freshman outside hitter Natalie Allen, who is replacing the team’s best player of last season, Angela Hupp, will get to showcase her talent.
After the Aztec Invitational, the Matadors will compete in the Sacramento State Invitational starting Sept. 3.