CSUN women’s volleyball hosts Big West-leading Gauchos

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The CSUN Matador women’s volleyball team closes out its home schedule on Saturday night, and it will do so against the top team in the Big West Conference, the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos.

Santa Barbara has a record of 15-8, 10-2 in the Big West heading into its match against Pacific tonight. Jamie Sandell, who currently leads the Big West with 434 kills, leads Santa Barbara. Megan Blackshire has 196 kills, Lauren McLaughlin has 166 kills, Olivia Waldowski has 125 and Brett Quirarte has 113.

The Gauchos swept its last match, defeating the CSU Fullerton Titans at the Thunderdome by scores of 30-19, 30-22 and 30-23. Sandell posted 21 kills for the Gauchos, Blackshire had 11 kills and McLaughlin had 10 kills. Emily Hendrickson had 18 kills and Ashley Dutro 12 kills as Santa Barbara set a school record by winning its 14th consecutive home match.

“They have several good players,” said head coach Jeff Stork. “They do have some players that are weak in their rotations and we’ll try to capitalize on those weak positions.”

The two teams last met at the thunderdome on Oct. 14, with Santa Barbara coming out on top, in four games 30-26, 26-30, 30-16 and 30-24. Matadors’ Jenn Probert led the team in kills with 16, Jamie Crawford had 23 digs, Harmony Burdine dug out 13 and Jamie Crawford dug out 12 while also posting 43 assists.

Sandell led the Gauchos with 24 kills while McLaughlin had 20 and Blackshire had 16. McLaughlin also had 18 digs for UCSB. CSUN would cherish nothing more than an upset victory against the Gauchos.

“If we were to beat a team like Santa Barbara, it would revitalize our confidence and our ability to play the game, and it would certainly help us emotionally as we head towards the end of our season,” Stork said.

The Matadors continued to struggle last weekend, losing both its non-conference road games at UC Davis on Nov. 4 and Fresno State on Nov. 5. CSUN dropped the first match to the Aggies in four games by scores of 30-14, 30-21, 24-30 and 30-24. CSUN then lost in five games to the Bulldogs, a match that was hotly contested all the way to the end. CSUN started out strong, winning the first game 30-28, but lost the next two 33-31 and 30-28. CSUN won the fourth match, again by a score of 30-28, but ultimately fell short, losing the final game 15-13.

“Going long is important (to) this team,” Stork said. “Certainly going five games, with all the sets going to deuce, I think (that) helps give this team experience, not only in close games, but also in the volume of competition we can give them.”

Burdine had 12 kills against the Aggies, and then posted a career-high 26 kills against the Bulldogs. Darla Donaldson had 13 kills and Kelley Hanson recorded 25 digs. CSUN also got contributions from players with less on-court experience, as Diva Kakonde posted 12 kills and Gini Mendenhall, who started in place of Kayla Wright, had 59 assists. CSUN hit .208 for the match and gained the advantage in team blocks, 14.0-11.0.

Ivan yeo can be reached at ivan.yeo.80@csun.edu.