All good things eventually come to an end, and unfortunately for the CSUN women’s volleyball team, that was the case Oct. 3.
The Long Beach State 49ers snapped the Matadors’ six-game winning streak and handed CSUN its first Big West Conference loss, sweeping the Matadors at the Walter Pyramid by scores of 30-24, 31-29 and 30-24.
“I think overall, we just had a tough match, and we started making mistakes,” middle blocker Val Kepler said. “(There were) a lot of errors on our part.”
The Matadors got another strong performance from outside hitter Harmony Burdine, who had 11 kills and 10 digs. Middle blocker Darla Donaldson also had double digit kills, as she smashed 10 against the 49ers.
Most of game one featured slim leads and 18 ties. The Matadors’ biggest lead was 4-2 at the start, but it did not last long, as the 49ers won the next three points to lead 5-4. The first game was nip and tuck most of the way, as Long Beach led 11-9 until setter Angela Hupp went off a Long Beach block for a kill, then a net violation and a 49er attack error gave CSUN the lead. Both teams then traded the next six points until Long Beach took advantage of a service error to tie the game and a Matador attack error gave Long Beach a 16-15 lead.
Long Beach maintained its lead, and actually had a 22-20 lead, but CSUN got the ball back on an attack error, then outside hitter Harmony Burdine teamed with middle blocker Val Kepler to deny a 49er attack, tying the game at 22. Unfortunately for the Matadors, it was the last tie of game one, as Long Beach won the next two points to force a Matador timeout. Nicole Vargas, though, caught CSUN off guard the next set, sneaking a tipped ball onto open territory. A Naomi Washington kill gave Long Beach a 28-23 lead and forced another CSUN breather. Long Beach then won two of three sets to take game one.
Game two was again hotly contested. Long Beach jumped out to a 3-0 lead, but CSUN countered with its first three to tie the game. Washington gave Long Beach the lead back with a kill-block. Then, after Burdine tied the game again, the 49ers caught fire, winning four of the next five points to take an 8-5 lead. Burdine and Kepler broke the run with a kill-block, but Long Beach won the next three sets to lead 11-6. CSUN responded by winning the next four points to cut the lead to 11-10.
Long Beach got the ball back on a CSUN attack error and both teams traded points until CSUN again got hot, winning the next five points, the last three by Donaldson, as the Matadors took a 16-13 lead.
CSUN withstood several Long Beach runs to maintain its lead and at one point got a huge break. The break came while CSUN was leading 21-20 and opposite Hilary Brinkman spiked the ball toward a Long Beach block attempt. The ball appeared to hit the net and went back into CSUN territory without any contact by the 49er blockers, but the officials ruled otherwise, awarding the point to CSUN and instead of a 21-21 tie, CSUN had a 22-20 lead.
The Matadors soon took advantage, winning the next three points to lead 25-20 and force a rare Long Beach timeout. CSUN continued to keep the 49ers behind them and actually had them on their heels, leading 29-26 until Long Beach won the next two points.
The Matadors, though, could not close out the 49ers, as a CSUN attack error forced sudden death, and it turned out to be a short one for CSUN, as Quincy Verdin smashed a kill to put Long Beach in front and another Matador attack error gave Long Beach a 31-29 win.
“We were in this match,” Matador head coach Jeff Stork said. “It’s a little disappointing we didn’t get that second set.”
Long Beach looked to keep the momentum going, as an early six-point run turned a 2-1 deficit into a 7-2 lead. The 49ers continued to roll, leading 13-6 to force a CSUN timeout. Long Beach led by as many as eight, but CSUN refused to go down without a fight as a Grayson kill, a 49er attack error and two Burdine kills cut the deficit in half. Long Beach got the lead back to as many as six, but the Matadors still hung on, as Burdine went off a Long Beach block and a net violation cut the lead back down to four at 26-22. CSUN got to within four points two more times, but a Vargas kill and another Matador attack error ended the game and the match.
“We did some good things, but all in all, we didn’t execute the same way that we had against the other three conference teams that we played,” Stork said.
Long Beach (11-4, 2-1) was led by its 6-foot-3-inch high-flying Alexis Crimes, who recorded 14 kills and also picked up a personal milestone, earning her career 1,000th kill. Washington had 12 kills and Vargas had 41 assists for the 49ers.
Hupp finished with 23 assists for CSUN and setter Kayla Wright had 19 assists and 14 digs. Libero Amy Hultner had a team-high 15 digs and fellow libero Kelley Hanson had 14 digs.
CSUN (9-5, 3-1) will have a chance to redeem themselves Saturday evening when they host future Big West Conference opponent UC Davis at the Matadome.