Women’s volleyball loses two in Invitational

Ivan Yeo

Hosting the 2006 Fremont Investment and Loan Invitational on Sept. 1-2, the Oregon Ducks and Utah State Aggies proved to be rude guests for the CSUN Matador women’s volleyball team, as both visitors came away with four-game wins against the Matadors.

In its first game against Oregon, the Matadors started out well by winning the first game decisively, but stumbled in the end, losing the last three games as Oregon took the match with scores of 22-30, 30-28, 30-14 and 30-14.

CSUN started game 1 on fire against the Ducks, scoring five of the first six points to jump ahead 5-1. Oregon pulled to within 7-4, and continued to stay close, but never gained the lead. CSUN won the game comfortably with a score of 30-22.

“In the beginning, we had it all together,” middle blocker Darla Donaldson said. “We read them (Oregon), we had the angles down, we knew where they were going to hit.”

In game 2 however, the Ducks came out with renewed energy, taking an early 3-1 lead. CSUN eventually fought back and the rest of game 2 was nip and tuck the whole way, with neither team holding more than a two-point lead.

Donaldson tied the game with a spike that found an open spot, and Mira Djuric went wide on an attack to give the Matadors the lead back and forced Oregon into a timeout. The Ducks battled their way back to take a 27-26 lead. Kepler tied the game, but Newcombe re-took the lead for Oregon, forcing a Matador timeout. Brinkman went off the block to tie the game one more time before Newcombe gave Oregon the lead back and Nevena Djordjevic tipped the ball that just stayed in to clinch game 2 for the Ducks.

“We had a couple different opportunities to win that set,” Stork said of game 2.

Oregon fed off its game 2 win throughout the next two games, jumping out to early leads at the start of both games and maintaining those leads with a series of short scoring streaks that kept the Matadors on their heels. The Ducks clinched the match with wins in games 3 and 4, both by scores of 30-14.

“I think they did a couple things,” Stork said of Oregon in the last two games. “They adjusted to our blocking, they started hitting a lot more lines with power.”

Grayson led the CSUN attack with 10 kills and Donaldson had nine. Hupp had 19 assists with Kayla Wright adding 12.

CSUN looked to bounce back the next night against Utah State, but instead, the Aggies became the Matadors’ latest foil, as they won their four-game match by scores of 30-18, 30-22, 28-30 and 30-24.

“We’re very disappointed and frustrated with ourselves,” sophomore setter Kayla Wright said. “We were all there, we were there the third game. The third game, we had it, and then they took it away from us in the fourth game.”

In game 1, CSUN jumped out to a 3-1 lead, but Utah State scored the next four to take a 5-3 lead. The Aggies then ran off five of the next six to lead 9-4. The Aggies continued to roll, pushing the lead to 25-9 before the Matadors started to show some life, scoring four in a row and two more following an Aggie timeout, but all it did was delay the inevitable, as the Aggies went on to win 30-18.

In game 2, it was Utah State who came out firing, bursting out to an early 6-1 advantage. CSUN then outscored Utah State 5-2 to pull to within two at 8-6, but the Aggies countered with four of the next five to lead 12-7. The Aggies maintained its advantage throughout the match, leading by as many as 10. The lead was too much to overcome, as the Aggies ended with a 30-22 victory.

However, in game 3, things finally turned in the Matadors’ direction. CSUN jumped out to a 5-3 lead, then following a Beth Hodge kill, the Matadors made their move. Grayson started things off with a kill, then libero Amy Hultner aced on the ensuing serve, Grayson found an open spot in the back of the Aggies court, Wright also earned a service ace and Grayson went off a Utah State block for a kill to give CSUN a 9-4 lead. Utah State’s Hailey Jeppson broke the run with a kill, but two kills by Donaldson gave CSUN an 11-5 lead, forcing a rare Aggie timeout.

Donaldson earned another point for CSUN following the timeout, then after both teams traded the next four points, Utah State scored three in a row to whittle the Matador lead to 14-10, but CSUN answered with its own three-point spurt to get the lead back to seven.

The Matadors hung on to their lead, as two Angela Hupp kills ended game three and extended the match by a game.

However, the Aggies made sure the match didn’t last beyond four games. CSUN held a 4-2 lead, but Utah State responded with five in a row to take a 9-4 lead. The Aggies held a 10-6 lead until the Matadors again rallied. Grayson went off the Utah State blockers for consecutive kills, Wright got a service ace and Donaldson pinned the Aggie defense to tie the game at 10. The Aggies weren’t fazed, as they eventually grabbed the lead back and led by as many as six. CSUN tried to keep the lead within its sight but Utah State would not be denied as they closed out the Matadors 30-24.

Donaldson again led the Matador effort with 15 kills while Grayson and Hupp each had 10. Hupp also assisted 26 kills while Wright had a team-high 31 kills. Hanson had 16 digs while Hultner had 15. For Utah State, Hodge and Jeppson had 14 kills apiece while Amanda Neilson had 12. Heather Hillier had 38 assists and 12 digs and Kelsi Peterson had 14 digs.

“I think every team can improve, and we’re a team that can improve,” Stork said.

CSUN will have a chance to improve this coming weekend, as they head off to Las Vegas for the UNLV classic. The Matadors’ first game will be against Xavier on Friday at 4:30 p.m. and their second game against the host Runnin Rebels Saturday Afternoon.

“We have a whole week ahead of us,” Hultner said. “We’re going to train hard, be active and hopefully, we’ll keep getting better and better.”