The 2008 season started well and ended in storybook fashion for the Northridge women’s volleyball team. But it was the middle part that made the season what it really was: a disappointment.?
The Matadors won four of their first six matches, placing second in the Bronco and Sacramento State Invitationals. That would prove to be the only positive stretch Northridge had all season as they lost three of the next four and began a losing streak that ultimately did them in.?
For just over a grueling month from mid-September to mid-October, Head Coach Jeff Stork saw his team lose 12 consecutive matches, most of them conference ones. Some of the games were closer than others, but all disappointments regardless. It took a toll on the team mentally and physically, but they kept working hard even when their season was slipping away.?
‘Confidence was an issue the middle part of the season,’ said Stork, who coached Northridge to a 3-13 conference record (9-21 overall) in his seventh season at the helm. ‘But we remained steadfast as a team, and did a good job of sticking together.’?
During that streak, the Matadors were defeated in five sets on four different occasions, including the conference opener to Santa Barbara in which the teams were tied at 12 in the fifth set, and in Riverside, where the Matadors failed to hold a two-set lead.?
‘Santa Barbara, Riverside and a couple of others we let slip away,’ Stork said. ‘We did not play well in fifth sets.’?
Overall, Northridge went 3-5 in five-set matches. One of the three victories happened to also be the biggest win of the season for Northridge, upsetting Long Beach State in the season finale.?
The victory over Long Beach was the first time since knocking off No. 25 Pepperdine in 2005 that Northridge defeated a ranked opponent.?
‘To beat a good team, a ranked team, at the end of the season highlights the entire season,’ said Stork. ‘We were very relaxed and we had a good time.’?
The 49ers will solely represent the Big West when they advance to their 22nd consecutive NCAA Tournament, 23rd overall, after clinching the program’s ninth Big West title with a 13-3 record to secure the conference’s automatic qualifier.?
With six returning starters, and five seniors on the team, Northridge felt they too had a good enough squad to challenge for the conference title.?
But outsiders didn’t think so. The Matadors were picked to finish seventh by the conference’s head coaches in the 2008 Big West Women’s Volleyball Preseason Poll.?
The Matadors finished last in the nine-team conference. While they would have liked to have a better season, 2008 ended on a high note for the Northridge women’s volleyball team. ?
In addition to winning the last two matches of the season as a team, two players were recognized for individual accomplishments. Junior Angela Hupp earned First Team All-Big West honors for the first time and freshman Sam Orlandini became the fifth straight Northridge player to be named to the All-Freshman Team as the postseason honors were handed out by the conference office Nov. 25. ?
Hupp was the Big West Conference Freshman of the Year as well as?All-Freshman Team selection in 2006 and an Honorable Mention pick in 2007. She started all 30 matches for the Matadors in 2008 and led Northridge in kills (323), kills per set (2.86) and total attacks (897). She was also second in aces (21), digs (248) and blocks (86.0) and was third in assists (128). Hupp already ranks in the Northridge career top-10 in assists.?
‘It feels good but I owe everything to my teammates,’ Hupp said. ‘It’s a team sport and there has never been a time when they weren’t there for me. They get me through everything on and off the court.’?
Orlandini started 24 of the 25 matches in which she appeared and led Northridge with 857 assists (9.74 a/s), which ranked sixth in the Big West. She also contributed 21 kills, 13 aces, 172 digs and 36.0 total blocks.?
Northridge will now look to put this season behind them and look to have a better season next year. Seniors Kelley Hanson, Val Kepler, Kayla Wright Amy Hultner, and Jenn Probert will be graduating, but Northridge will have their key parts returning.?
Hanson became the school’s leader in career digs. Kepler is Northridge’s all-time leader in block assists. Wright is third in career assists. Hultner became just the fifth player in Northridge history to reach 100 career aces. Probert was a key component of the Matadors offense in 2008 before an injury sidelined her for the majority of the season. ?
‘We have a good core group for next season, and we’ll have good players coming in,’ said Stork, who also said he will enjoy watching the five seniors walk on stage and receive their degrees.