Women’s Volleyball: CSUN claims share of Big West Title with five set victory at UC Davis

Andrew Martinez

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File Photo / Daily Sundial

The Matadors will share the Big West title with conference rivals UCSB and Hawai’i after defeating the Aggies in five sets on Saturday night on the road. File Photo / Daily Sundial.

In their final and most pivotal match of the season, the Matadors (23-6, 13-3 Big West) rallied from the brink of defeat and defeated UC Davis (14-15, 6-10 Big West) in five sets to clinch a share of the Big West Title, 21-25, 25-9, 18-25, 27-25, 15-5.

With a final conference record of 13-3, the Matadors share the same conference record as Hawai’i (22-4, 13-3 Big West) and UC Santa Barbara (18-10, 13-3 Big West) to become tri-champions and earn a share of their first-ever Big West Title.

The Matador’s visit to UC Davis to conclude the regular season would play out much like their Big West opener at home in September, when CSUN won in five sets after trailing 2-1.

Both teams would get off to a slow start but the Aggies would strike first with a victory in the first set. Despite hitting just .023 for the set, UC Davis would rally from a 16-13 deficit and score seven straight points to take the lead before a kill by junior opposite hitter Natalie Allen kept the Matadors within two points at 17-19. The Aggies would continue to roll and win the last four points to take a 1-0 lead in the match.

The second set was all Matadors as sophomore middle blocker Cieana Stinson led the way with eight kills and a block en route to a 25-9 Matador victory to tie the match up at one set apiece. However, the Matadors could not find any holes in the Aggie defense in the third set, only striking seven kills in 38 attacks as UC Davis cruised towards a 25-18 win to take a 2-1 lead in the match.

The fourth set would prove to be the most exciting of the match, as the teams battled point-for-point until the end, no team holding more than a two point advantage over the other at any point.  On the verge of losing the match trailing 24-23, Allen saved the Matadors with two kills to tie the match at 25-25 forcing extra points.  A service ace by senior outside hitter Britney Graff and a kill from senior outside hitter Mahina Haina would clinch the set and force a deciding fifth set.

CSUN dominated an anticlimactic fifth set with a .632 hitting percentage, with all but three points coming by way of kill.  Allen would add a block and Graff would smash two aces in a 15-5 win in set five, earning the victory 3-2 over the Aggies.

Allen’s clutch kills in the fourth set to force extra points would be the highlight of her double-double of both a match-leading 18 kills and 20 digs. Stinson would finish with 11 kills, while junior middle blocker Sam Kaul smashed 12 kills with a .524 hitting clip.  Senior setter Sydney Gedryn anchored the Matador attack with 46 assists and 17 digs, while three other Matadors also scooped double-digit digs.

Despite clinching a share of the conference title, UC Santa Barbara earns the auto-bid for the NCAA Tournament, holding tiebreakers over CSUN and Hawai’i. The Matadors, most recently ranked 38th in the NCAA rankings, should receive an at-large bid with a share of their conference title and a strong strength of schedule, including matches at No. 3 Washington and No.16 Creighton and a victory over No. 11 Hawai’i at home.

The NCAA Selection show will be Sunday at 6:30 p.m. on ESPNU.