The CSUN women’s volleyball team is struggling with a six-match losing streak, but that could all change by Sunday if the Matadors beat UC Irvine and Long Beach State on the road to close out the season.
In the last meeting between CSUN and UCI on Oct. 25, freshman outside hitter Harmony Burdine led the team with 12 kills and 10 digs. The Anteaters won the match in three straight games. UC Irvine is in the midst of a five-match losing streak, including a three-match sweep at the hands of Long Beach State. Irvine’s overall record is 9-18, 2-10 in the Big West play, while CSUN has a 4-21 overall record, just 2-10 in conference.
Long Beach State, currently in second place in the Big West, with a 21-5 record, 10-2 in conference play, swept the Matadors back on Oct. 7. If Long Beach State defeats Pacific and CSUN, it will secure a share of the Big West title with UCSB. But CSUN will do everything in its power to play the spoiler.
“Our strategies are to play together as a team and out-block their hitters,” Burdine said.
The Matadors will be playing the last two matches without its injured freshman middle blocker Darla Donaldson, who averages 2.91 kills per game as well as a totaling 253 kills for the season
“At practices I help by serving, Donaldson said. “Right now I am concentrating on getting healthy for next season and becoming a stronger athlete. I will always be there, at every practice and game for the rest of the season, for moral support.”
Even though the Matadors are trying to finish the strong, after a season riddled with losses, head coach Jeff Stork finds positives in the performance of his new team.
“It’s a young team going through a pretty good season,” Stork said. “The strength of schedule is second to none in the Big West (and) they show this young team some tough competition. These girls train extremely hard and are a good group of kids.”
Donaldson said the intangibles will make the difference if CSUN plan to end the season on a high note and steal both games on the road this weekend.
“The next two matches are going to take a lot of heart,” Donaldson said. “Because we have gone through the season with a losing record, it is going to take heart from each player to win.”
Stork has propelled the women’s program into two NCAA Tournament berths in the four seasons he has coached at CSUN. But this season’s struggles have put a damper on his outstanding resume.
“He has been trying so hard this year to push us individually and as a team to do our best,” Donaldson said. “Whatever we do, he wants us to do it for the team. He has told us several times that teams might have awesome players, but we can beat them by being smart with the ball and playing as a team.”
Some players found the season to be a solid learning experience, from start to finish.
“I have definitely learned a lot this year being a starting freshmen,” Burdine said. “It’s not easy, and you have to work your hardest at all times. There is never anytime to slack off because we need to constantly push one another to become a better team as a whole.”
Charles Keeranan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.