The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Matadors begin conference play with two more losses at home

The scenario was advantageous for the Northridge women’s volleyball team. They were home for their first two league matches.

It’s no secret, though, that advantage does not always result in success.

The Matadors hosted foes UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly to begin their 2008 Big West Conference season Friday and Saturday respectively. The Gauchos won in five sets while the Mustangs did it in four. Northridge is still winless at home this season.

No. 25 Cal Poly struggled in their non-conference matches, but is now 2-0 in conference play after also defeating Cal State Fullerton Friday. The Matadors played one of their best matches in recent memory against the Mustangs, but it was not enough against the two-time defending Big West champions.

‘It’s early in the conference season, so there will be matches like this that you just need to suck it up and play tough,’ said Mustangs’ head coach Jon Stevenson after his team defeated the Matadors by scores of 14-25, 25-18, 25-22, 25-23. ‘But give it up to CSUN, they were tough to beat.’

Northridge (5-9, 0-2 Big West) came out swinging in the first set and looked sharp. An early 8-3 advantage prompted Stevenson to call a timeout to try to stop the bleeding, but his Mustangs could not cut the deficit below five points. The Matadors never trailed in the set.

The dominance can be attributed to Northridge committing no errors, scoring on 12 kills, and a sideout percentage of 81 percent, while the Mustangs committed eight , had a hitting percentage of -.037 and sided out successfully at just 50 percent.

But as all good teams do, Cal Poly (7-6, 2-0) regrouped, put the first set behind, and focused on winning the next set, which they did convincingly.

This time it was the Mustangs who took the early lead in the set, prompting Northridge head coach Jeff Stork to call a timeout with this team trailing 10-5. It worked, as the Matadors reeled off four straight points, and nine of 12 to take a 14-13 lead. But the Mustangs answered with six straight and it proved to be a backbreaker for Northridge. The Matadors went on to lose by giving up 12 of the set’s final 16 points.

‘Large runs are hard to overcome,’ Stork said. ‘In volleyball, the sets are short so there is not a lot of room for errors.’

‘I’ll take our runs over their runs,’ he added with a smile.

The all-important third set looked like a dogfight, seeing 13 ties and five lead changes.
Cal Poly took their first lead of the set at 8-7, but Northridge kept it close and took a lead at 15-14. It didn’t last, however, as the Mustangs took another lead, one they maintained till the end. The Matadors stayed close in the latter stages of the set, but, ultimately, could not baffle a team that has been through more at this point.

It looked like Cal Poly emotionally drained Northridge early in the fourth set, but a 7-3 Matador run gave them their first lead of the set at 9-8. The lead increased to 12-9 before the Mustangs came back and tied it at 13. From that point, they scored five of the next six to take a 18-14 lead. That was enough to hold off a late Northridge rally and take home the win.

‘I thought we played real well in the third and fourth sets,’ Stork said.

‘We did not make the same number of mistakes as we have in the past,’ said Stork about the team’s overall play against No. 25 Cal Poly.

Siara Grayson led the Matadors in kills with 17. Angela Hupp added another 10 kills. Samantha Orlandini and Hailey Fithian each contributed 39 assists for their respective teams. In the digs’ department, Kelley Hanson led Northridge with 10. As a team, Northridge blocked 12 shots.

The loss came one day after the Matadors dropped their conference-opening match to Santa Barbara in five sets.

Northridge took the first set in that one, but the Gauchos came back to take the second and third. Down two sets to one, the Matadors needed to win the fourth set, and they did it, forcing a fifth and deciding set.

The teams traded the lead early in set five before a Northridge run gave the Matadors a 9-6 cushion. A UC Santa Barbara kill followed by an ace cut the lead to 9-8 but a kill put the Matadors back up 10-8. A Grayson service error and a Santa Barbara kill evened things at 10. Another kill-ace combo gave UCSB a 12-11 lead before Northridge pulled even at 12-12. Williams was blocked on the ensuing point, and the Gauchos finished the set and the match with back-to-back kills.

Comparing the two matches, Stork said: ‘We gave (UC) Santa Barbara too many opportunities. (Friday against Cal Poly) was much better.’

‘There are always things you can improve on. You want to win them all.’

Northridge will look to end its six-game losing streak against Cal State Bakersfield in a non-conference match Tuesday.

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