Matadors go 3-0 in Invitational

Debby von Winckelmann

The CSUN women’s volleyball team won the SJSU Hyatt Invitational Tournament on Sept. 15-16 at Spartan Gym in San Jose, after coming back from a two-game deficit in the final match against the host Spartans.

After sweeping Harvard in their opening match on Sept. 15 and continuing the sweep against Utah Valley State earlier in the day, the Matadors were able to come up big when they needed to, beating the Spartans in five games, 27-30, 25-30, 30-28, 33-31, 15-8. The Matadors are now sporting a winning record of 6-4.

Middle blocker Darla Donaldson was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament, with outside hitter Harmony Burdine and setter Kayla Wright also being named to the all-tournament team.

CSUN head coach Jeff Stork said that despite being down two games, the Matadors remained focused.

“The girls never really lost their fight,” he said. “In the fourth and fifth games we rarely made a mistake or two in a row. We did a good job of forcing our opponent to make mistakes.”

In the first game against Harvard, the teams traded points back and forth until the Crimson took the lead 5-4. Some key kills by Donaldson and outside hitter Siara Grayson tied the score at 7-7. A Crimson error and a couple of service aces by Wright put the Matadors ahead by four points. Harvard battled back to within one point, but never took back the lead. In the next two games, CSUN took the lead early and never looked back. The Matadors hit .485 in the second game and .356 in the third, dominating both games.

Wright posted her second double-double of the season with 28 assists and 12 digs. Donaldson led the team in kills with 13, while hitting at .458. Grayson and Burdine both had 11 kills, with Grayson hitting .400 and Burdine hitting .250. Setter Angela Hupp had 20 assists, in addition to eight kills. As a team, the Matadors hit .371 and had only 10 errors, while the Harvard Crimson hit at a .107 percentage with 17 errors.

For Harvard, middle blocker Katie Turley-Molony had eight kills and hit .353 and middle blocker Suzie Trimble had six kills and hit at .333. Setter Sarah Cebron and setter Lily Durwood each had 13 assists.

The Matadors continued their winning play into their next match against Utah Valley State on Sept. 16, sweeping the Wolverines 30-22, 30-26, 30-25.

In game one, CSUN pulled away early, but the Wolverines tied the game at 11-11. Errors by the Wolverines and a couple of big kills by Burdine and middle blocker Val Kepler helped the Matadors to expand their lead. The Wolverines came within one point at 18-19, but CSUN again pulled away after kills by Grayson and Hupp, combined with more Wolverine errors to put the Matadors ahead for good.

In the second game, CSUN had the lead at 20-13 when Utah started to fight back into the game. The Wolverines went on a run that resulted in a CSUN timeout at 24-20. Utah came to within two points, but a kill by Donaldson sparked a CSUN run, which included a key block by Burdine and Donaldson, as well as the winning kill by Burdine.

In the third game, CSUN again took the lead early and the Wolverines again came back to tie the score at 8-8. The teams traded a few points, but errors by the Wolverines again helped the Matadors widen their lead and win the game.

Donaldson’s hitting percentage was an impressive .480 for the match and she had a team-high 13 kills. Burdine also posted double-digit kills with 11, along with 11 digs. Hanson had a team-high 21 digs. The Matadors hit .238 as a team and posted eight blocks for the match.

For the Wolverines, outside hitter Camie Manwell recorded her eleventh double-double this season with 13 kills and 12 digs. Middle blocker Jessica Endres had eight kills while hitting at a .286 percentage. Libero Chelsea Baugh had a team-high 17 digs for the match.

Stork said that the key to the wins against Harvard and Utah Valley State was winning side outs.

“We sided out at the two highest percentages all year,” Stork said. “This was the focus of practice this week.”

CSUN’s final match of the weekend against San Jose State proved to be the most challenging and exciting of the tournament.

In the first game, the Matadors held the lead until the Spartans tied the score at 18-18 and followed with a four-point run. The Matadors came back to within one, but were unable to take the lead back.

In game two, the Spartans took the lead until CSUN tied the game at 17-17. The Matadors took the lead with a kill by Donaldson, but was short-lived due to a couple of CSUN errors. After a timeout, the Matadors came to within one point of the Spartans, but again lost the game.

Game three started the Matadors’ comeback as they jumped to the lead until the Spartans tied the game at 9-9. CSUN retook the lead, 17-16, after a couple of kills by Donaldson, paired with some Spartan errors. San Jose tied the score three more times before kills by Hupp and Wright sealed the win for the Matadors.

Game four had coaches and spectators on the edge of their seats, as the score was tied 16 times and the lead changed five times. The teams traded points back and forth until the Spartans jumped ahead 21-17. CSUN took a timeout and won the next point on a kill by Grayson. After losing the next two points, CSUN took another timeout and won the next four points on kills by Burdine, Hupp and Kepler to come within one point of the Spartans at 23-22. San Jose won the next two points and the two teams again traded points until Donaldson’s kill tied the game at 30-30. The game was tied again at 31-31 when Hupp scored a kill to put the Matadors ahead 31-32. The game-winning play was a stuff block by Wright on the next play.

“We actually ran out of substitutions because the game went so long,” Stork said, explaining that Wright doesn’t usually play up front. “Kayla Wright ended the game with a stuff block, which was huge. It was a testament to what happened all weekend, whether it was an ace or a stuff block, we got what we needed when we needed it.”

The fifth game was all CSUN, with eight kills and a hitting average of .444.

Donaldson, hitting at .375 had 21 kills and nine blocks. Other Matadors with double-digit kills were Grayson with 17, Burdine with 16, Hupp with 12, and Kepler with 10. Wright posted her third double-double of the season with 39 assists and 16 digs. Hanson had a career-high 32 digs.

For San Jose State outside hitter Jennifer Senftleben recorded her 1,000th career kill in the match. Senftleben ended the match with a double-double with 24 kills and 12 digs.

The Matadors will open conference play at the Matadome at 7 pm on Sept. 21 against UC Riverside.