Women’s Volleyball: No. 24 CSUN routs Cal State Fullerton in three sets

Andrew Martinez

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Photo credit: John Saringo-Rodriguez / Photo Editor

Senior setter Sydney Gedryn sets up a kill for junior middle blocker Sam Kaul in Thursday night’s sweep of Cal State Fullerton. Photo credit: John Saringo-Rodriguez / Photo Editor

In their first match after entering the top 25 for the first time since 1992, the 24th ranked Matadors (18-4, 8-1 Big West) put on a strong all-around performance in sweeping Cal State Fullerton (9-12, 2-7 Big West) 25-11, 25-16, 25-22 Thursday at the Matadome.

The Titans only threatened the Matadors in the third set, when they enjoyed a couple of short-lived leads late in the set. CSUN took advantage of a weak Cal State Fullerton attack that only hit .062 for the match and enjoyed high hitting marks, notching a .467 hitting percentage in the first set and a .321 hitting clip for the match.

Although junior middle blocker Casey Hinger and senior outside hitter Mahina Haina reached double digit kills, the stat sheet was spread thin as eight players got at least one kill and thirteen Matadors saw time on the court.

Head coach Jeff Stork felt that the dominant start made the decision to stretch the roster more comfortable.

”We have depth on this team, and I’m slow to change.  It’s not necessarily the players so much, its more me not wanting to make changes,” said Stork.

After a Cal State Fullerton ace to start the match, CSUN scored nine straight points before a Titan kill stopped the streak at 2-9. Two points later, CSUN went on another nine point run, this time running the score to 19-3 until Hinger committed a service error.

Freshman outside hitter Julie Haake and sophomore setter Steffi Miller came off the bench to connect for a few late kills, and Miller would keep playing, setting up Hinger and Haina for the clinching kills in the first set.

CSUN appeared to begin to run away with the match in the beginning of the second set, as two Cal State Fullerton errors and five straight kills allowed the Matadors to jump out to a 6-1 lead. Cal State Fullerton rallied to move within a point at 11-12, but would never see a tie or lead for the rest of the set.

The Matadors kept a small but comfortable lead over the Titans over the final ten points, eventually closing out Cal State Fullerton with emphatic back-to-back blocks from senior setter Sydney Gedryn and a Hinger kill.

Cal State Fullerton came out stronger in the third set, matching CSUN point for point throughout the entire set. Leads of 13-12 and 15-14 began to cause concern that the Matadors might drop a set, but a Matador attack led by upperclassmen junior opposite hitter Natalie Allen, Haina and Hinger would close the door on the Titans, with four of the last five Matador points coming by way of a kill.

Junior middle blocker Sam Kaul, who scored five kills and four of the team’s 11.5 blocks, thought that Cal State Fullerton was able to catch up in the last set because the team got complacent.

“We just felt that we were comfortable, and we need to step out of that comfort zone,” said Kaul.

However, senior outside hitter Britney Graff felt that the team was simply fatigued and the team remained focused as they were able to complete the sweep.

“In the past, we’ve played down when we’ve played lower teams, but we’ve been working on [our focus] and it showed tonight,” Graff said.

Coach Stork was satisfied with the first two sets, as he felt the team executed their game plan “to the tee.”  However, he felt that the team could have spared a tougher effort in the third set by taking care of the ball in certain situations.

“The third set was not a good indication of the maturity level of this team. I know they can play well, and I’m sure that they’ll play better against Riverside.”

With this victory, CSUN sweeps the season series versus Cal State Fullerton and has not dropped a set to the Titans since September 2012.  It is the Matadors’ sixth straight win against Cal State Fullerton.

The first-place Matadors will host UC Riverside on Saturday to complete a three game home stand before heading on the road to face conference opponents UC Irvine and Long Beach State next weekend.