Women’s Volleyball: Matadors sweep Riverside for fourth win in a row

Andrew Martinez

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Photo credit: John Saringo-Rodriguez / Photo Editor

Freshman middle blocker Stephanie Serna goes up for a spike against UC Riverside. The Matadors have now won four in a row and are 7-0 at home. Photo credit: John Saringo-Rodriguez / Photo Editor

The 24th ranked Matadors (19-4, 9-1 Big West) rode their best hitting performance of the season to a sweep of UC Riverside (1-21, 0-10 Big West) 25-19, 25-19, 25-17 Saturday at the Matadome.

Although the upperclassmen led the way with a combined 44 kills, several underclassmen had extended playing time as 13 Matadors saw the court. Together, the team hit for a .455 percentage, their highest mark this season and smashing their previous high of .343 against Santa Clara in the season opener.

The Highlanders, who have struggled in conference play, came out and challenged the Matadors early, as they hit over .300 for the first two sets.

“Their offense was really fast and it surprised us a little at the beginning,” said junior opposite hitter Natalie Allen, who contributed seven kills and seven digs.

UC Riverside took the lead at 13-12 and 15-14 in the first set despite the strong CSUN attack, which was a cause for concern early in the match. However, junior middle blocker Casey Hinger and senior outside hitter Mahina Haina pulled the Matadors out of trouble with a combined 12 kills in the opening set, including three back-to-back kills to clinch the set.

The Matadors jumped out to an early 10-2 lead in the second set, but UC Riverside would mount a rally.  An unexpected Highlander dig led to a perfect setup and strong kill to catch the Matadors off guard and make the score 10-4, which would spark a UC Riverside scoring streak.

The Highlanders tied the second set at 13, 14, and 15 points apiece, but never grabbed a lead. Allen would take control late, pounding the final three kills of the set to win by six points again.

The third set was all CSUN, as they jumped out to another 10-2 lead but this time held on, cruising to an eight point win. Freshman outside hitter Julie Haake and freshman middle blocker Stephanie Serna saw extended court time while sophomore setter Steffi Miller continued her strong play after being subbed into the match earlier in the second set.

“When I gave the players who don’t normally play a lot time they did extremely well, so I’m really happy with our team’s ability to rally around each other,” said Stork, who was hesitant to sub multiple players during Thursday’s sweep of Fullerton.

Stork was especially satisfied with Miller’s performance, as she set up a career-high 19 assists.

“She’s a very intelligent setter, and she can distribute and get a feel for the players that are on the court. I think she does a very good job of understanding what’s in front of her so making a lot of changes can typically create issues,  but I thought she did a very good job of controlling those situations,” Stork said.

With their strong offensive performance, Matadors continue to lead their conference in overall kills (1259) and hitting percentage in conference play (.268).  The Matadors have won eight consecutive sets since dropping the third set against Hawai’i Oct. 24, and hope to ride their hot streak on the road when they travel to UC Irvine and Long Beach State next weekend.

CSUN’s next home game is Nov. 14, when they host Cal Poly in the penultimate home game of the season.