Before the Northridge women’s volleyball team hits the road for three crucial conference matches against UC Irvine, UC Riverside, and Long Beach State, they have a non-conference opponent to worry about.
And while it may be natural to look ahead to continuing the Big West Conference season, Head Coach Jeff Stork and his Matadors are not going to overlook a quality opponent like Cal State Bakersfield. The Roadrunners pay a visit to Northridge tonight at 7 p.m. at the Matadome.
‘Bakersfield has been playing very well,’ Stork said. ‘[Head] Coach John Price has done a terrific job.’
The Roadrunners will walk into the Matadome having won three of their last four games. They went undefeated in the UC Davis Tournament, defeating Big West Conference squad UC Davis in four sets, Sacramento State – a team the Matadors swept – in five and Fordham University in three.
Price, the opposing coach, is a familiar face to CSUN. He’s the winningest coach in Northridge men’s volleyball history (194) and had a one-season stint with the women as well. When T.J. Kerr stepped down as the women’s coach shortly before the 1993 season, Price stepped in and led the Matadors to a 12-17 record as an NCAA Division I independent. Last year, CSUB’s first season at the Division I level, Price led the Roadrunners to eight wins and a second-place finish at the NCAA Division I Independent Championships.
In 2008, Cal State Bakersfield (8-7) has been one of the nation’s top serving teams, ranked seventh nationally in service aces at 2.12 aces per set. They rank No. 14 in digs per set at 16.75 and No. 31 in assists at 12.65 per set.
Senior libero Mystie McNaughton, and juniors Kayla Williamson and Barbie Thistle are players that rank among the national leaders in three categories for the Roadrunners. McNaughton ranks sixth nationally in digging at 5.71 digs per set and is on pace to pass Camille Mitchell for the all-time CSUB record (1,793). Williamson begins the week ranked sixth in aces, averaging 0.67 per set. She is also on pace to total approximately 86 aces this season, a mark that would break Morgan Reed’s school record of 81, set in 2005. Thistle is ranked 30th among NCAA Division I setters, averaging 10.81 assists per set.
‘They have players that can score a lot of points, servers that are potent and, defensively, they are scrappy,’ Stork said. ‘They don’t stuff a lot of balls, but get touches to put them on the attack.’
The Matadors (5-9, 0-2 Big West Conference) are coming off a loss to Cal Poly, their sixth in a row. Winning is the ultimate goal for all competitors, but the Northridge coaching staff realizes the difference between a win and a loss results from quality of play, something the team is feeling good about.
‘Winning and losing takes care of itself,’ Stork said. ‘We played very well against Cal Poly, and I think we feel good about the way we played, and that’s the most important thing.’
Northridge has a quality team that has shown signs of improvement throughout the season. The question is, however, whether or not they can be consistent.
As Stork put it: ‘You can clobber a team and play great (for one set), but then you’re back to zero (in the next one). We have to sustain it over long periods of time.’
No team wants to go through extended losing streaks. Northridge has played well recently, but it’s been over two weeks since their last victory, a sweep of Montana in the ASU Invitational. Something like that has the potential to get players down on themselves and lose confidence.
‘It is very important for us to get back on the winning track with an out-of-conference game because our confidence isn’t as high as it could be,’ sophomore outside hitter Siara Grayson said. ‘With a win, we could gain some of that confidence back and get back on the right track.’
‘We need to show we can play against anybody, not just against teams in our conference.’ Stork said.
The match will be the first of two between the teams this season. The Matadors will pay back the Roadrunners’ visit back on Nov. 6.