Here?s the final chapter

Emin Avakian

Prior to Friday night’s season finale match with Long Beach State, the Northridge women’s volleyball will honor the five seniors on the team: Kelley Hanson, Amy Hultner, Val Kepler, Jenn Probert, and Kayla Wright.?

Immediately after that, the seniors will join their teammates and get to business, as the Matadors (8-21, 2-13 Big West Conference) will host No. 23 Long Beach State in what will conclude their 2008 season.?

The 49ers ride a nine-match winning streak into Friday. Long Beach State (23-4, 12-2) swept Northridge at the Walter Pyramid earlier this season. The victory was the seventh straight for Long Beach in its series history with CSUN. The Matadors trail 18-4 in the all-time series and are 2-8 against them in 10 matches at The Matadome.?

The Matadors are 1-8 in the familiar confines of their home court. Seven of Northridge’s eight wins this season came on the road. They are 0-3 against ranked teams this season.?
The first-place 49ers’ two-match advantage over Cal Poly (10-4) and UC Irvine (10-4) guarantees them at least a share of the 2008 Big West title, the program’s ninth championship.? In addition, Long Beach State has also secured the conference’s automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament by virtue of tiebreakers versus Cal Poly and UC Irvine, marking their 22nd appearance in the NCAA Tournament.?

The Matadors will not see a postseason, but Jeff Stork’s team has played hard to win every match on the schedule and that’s not going to change now. Being the underdog is nothing new for the Matadors and they will give it all they got to pull off the upset. Long Beach State will have to be careful not to overlook a tested, determined, and capable Northridge squad.?

‘They need two wins to secure the conference title,’ said Stork, who is in his seventh season as the head coach. ‘They have to beat us and Fullerton, so we’re playing the role of spoiler.’?

‘We have been working really hard to finish out the season strong,’ said sophomore outside hitter Siara Grayson.?

Stork also said that the match takes on more significance since it is the final match for Hanson, Hultner, Kepler, Probert, and Wright.

‘We want to send the seniors off on a good note,’ he said.?

Each has been instrumental not just this season for Northridge, but also in their storied Division I careers.?

With her seventh dig in Friday’s match at Pacific, senior libero Kelley Hanson became Cal State Northridge’s all-time leader in that category. Hanson wound up with 14 digs in the match and added 13 the next night at UC Davis to give her a team-high 352 digs in 2008.
Add that to her three-year total of 937 and she takes 1,289 career digs into her final match against Long Beach State.?

Senior Amy Hultner picked up one ace at UC Davis last Saturday and it was a historic one, the 100th of her Matador career. She becomes just the fifth player in Northridge women’s volleyball history to reach 100 career aces.?

Several Matadors have etched their names into the Northridge career record book.

Hanson, in addition to digs, has moved into a tie for fifth in sets played (417) with Jessika Hammerich. Hultner, with 415, is currently sixth in sets played and remains fifth in service aces (100). Fellow senior Val Kepler, Cal State Northridge’s all-time leader in block assists with 405, moved into second place in total blocks (445) and remains ninth in sets played (405). Senior Kayla Wright also remains third in career assists with 2,381 and is 11th in career aces with 92.?

‘I am honored and privileged that they were part of this program for four years,’ Stork said. ‘They are five outstanding student-athletes.’?

The five will need solid play from their teammates. Long Beach State brings a potent attack on offense and defense. Angela Hupp leads the team with 309 kills (2.86 per set). Samantha Orlandini has been the main setter this season and has totaled a team-leading 857 (9.74 per set)?.

Freshman outside hitter Caitlin Ledoux leads the 49ers with 329 kills (3.19 per set), which ranks 10th in the BigWest. Senior outside hitter Quincy Verdin adds 3.15 kills/set and setter Nicole Vargas has led Long Beach State to a .250 hitting clip.?

It has been a tough season for the women’s volleyball team at Northridge to say the least. However, all focus is winning Friday’s match. There will be plenty of time to reflect on the season that was in the offseason.?

‘It’s going to be an exciting match,’ Stork said. ‘And it’s a great opportunity for the students to come out and watch a good match.’