Matador women’s volleyball hold seventh place with five-set thriller

Julio Alberto Cruz

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CSUN’s Monica McFarland (3) spikes the ball against two UC Irvine defenders. Photo Credit Patrick Dilanchian/ Contributing Photographer

The CSUN women’s volleyball team beat UC Irvine in a five-set thriller at a raucous Matadome to claim sole possession of seventh place in the Big West Conference.

Not only did CSUN (9-13, 2-5 Big West) get sophomore outside hitter Monica McFarland back, but the team also received a loud reception and support from the men’s volleyball team, who wore Halloween-like feminine customs and badgered UC Irvine (5-15, 1-6 Big West) throughout the entire match Saturday night.

“We do plan to support the team every game if possible,” said Kyle Stevenson, freshman outside hitter of the men’s volleyball team, who was dressed in a banana custom.

Head coach Jeff Stork said he supported the bright colors the guys wore as he enjoyed it because it is always nice to get support from the fans.

“It probably affected the less experienced players,” Stork said about the loud noise directed towards the Anteaters.

The Matadome had a near capacity crowd in attendance, since fans also wore pink in support of Breast Cancer Awareness month.

CSUN took the close match 25-19, 18-25, 25-21, 22-25, 16-14.  The best performance as a team for the Matadors came in set one and in the most important part of the fifth and final set.

The team got help from all sides in each match. To start set one, senior middle blocker Lynda Morales pounded a perfect eight for eight kills and added a block.

By the end of set four, freshman opposite hitter Natalie Allen had slowly crept up to tie Morales with 11 kills and added 10 digs.

After three straight aces from McFarland, a block from junior middle blocker Puneet Pataria and back-to-back kills from Allen, the Anteaters were forced to call their first timeout of the set.

“We were getting contribution all over the place,” Stork said. “Our energy was extremely high and it was a big boost to our confidence…and that’s what we need.”

Sets two (18-25) and four (22-25) were not good for the Matadors as they had several plays with miscommunication, miss serves and no blocking.

Set two, though, did have some exciting plays, especially by Pataria when she went up twice to block two kill attempts in a row followed by a kill of her own, although it was not enough since the team trailed most of the set.

Junior setter Sam Orlandini ended up the night with a match-high 45 assists. She did sub out a few times at the end of sets, but according to Stork, it was because freshman setter Sydney Gedryn isn’t only a good setter but she is “an outstanding blocker, primarily in those scenarios.”

Morales and Orlandini teamed up with about three blocks together on the right side that helped the momentum change throughout different sets.

Set three was a close game, but Orlandini connected with all hitters, which made it difficult for UC Irvine blockers to keep up.

“We built early on good connection and had chemistry the whole match,” Orlandini said.

Junior outside hitter Una Siljegovic had seven kills by the end of set three as she started to heat up. She did end up with a team-high 15 kills.

Morales helped the Matadors out as she ended the night with 14 kills, hitting it from and to all sides while adding six digs and eight blocks.

“It helped that we started with a good lead,” Morales said.

In the fifth and final set, McFarland gave the team a 2-0 lead with a kill then Allen added a couple while Siljegovic joined the action, stretching the lead to 6-3.

Then, the Anteaters began chipping away forcing CSUN to call two quick timeouts. Morales added a kill but Siljegovic saved the Matadors as she added three kills to put the team at match point 15-14.

That substitution of Gedryn for Olandini paid off as it was Gedryn who ended the match with a block that put the ball back straight down to the Anteaters court side, giving the Matadors the win.