Coming off two back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances, the Matadors were picked to finish seventh in the preseason coaches poll, released on August 11 by the Big West Conference.
The Matadors have plenty of reasons to be excited, with new starters in the line-up and the signing of 2004 First Team All-Southwestern League selection and Second Team All-Area pick, Kayla Wright, CSUN should be ready to go.
“I am very excited for the upcoming season because we basically have a new team,” said head coach Jeff Stork. “We have ten new players, a lot of quality athletes, and a tough schedule.”
The Matadors began the season by hosting the Arizona State University Sun Devils in the fourth annual Fremont Investment and Loan Invitational.
CSUN began the match by taking the first two games by an identical score of 30-27 before ASU would come back to take the final three games 30-21, 30-26 and 15-9 winning the match.
Matador outside hitter Kelley Hanson celebrated her collegiate debut with 24 kills and 23 digs. CSUN, which started six freshmen in the match, also got 17 kills from Darla Donaldson and 13 from Jenn Probert. Junior libero Jamie Crawford set a Fremont Investment and Loan Invitational tournament record with 36 digs in the losing effort. Wright also had an impressive debut with 53 assists and 11 digs.
“We kind of relaxed since we knew we already had two wins under our belt,” Wright said. “We are still getting used to each other and how one another play. We will be good in the future.”
ASU hit .207 (65-23-203) compared to .144 (69-38-216) for CSUN. Northridge also had 102 digs compared to 90 for the Sun Devils, and out-aced ASU 7-4. CSUN had a slight 11.0 to 9.0 edge in team blocks as well.
The Matadors next match was Saturday morning against the UNLV Rebels, who lost their first match to Saint Mary’s.
CSUN won game one as freshman Val Kepler had four kills and hit .800 for the Matadors. The game was tied 18-18 before Northridge won four straight points opening up a 22-18 lead. The Rebels got within two points on five separate occasions down the stretch but CSUN held on to take game one in a 30-28 thriller.
In game two, the Rebels jumped out to a 12-6 lead en route to a 25-30 game two victory. Game three was tied at 12 before UNLV ran off seven straight points. That propelled them to a 21-30 win and a 2-1 lead in the match. The Matadors sensed the urgency as they capitalized on a pair of Rebel hitting errors to take a 22-20 lead in the fourth game, eventually winning it 30-26, and tying the match at two games a piece.
In game five the Matadors never looked back as they won it easily 15-7, winning the match and recording the teams first victory of the season.
Wright had her second straight double-double with 43 assists and 14 digs, while Crawford continued her excellent play notching 27 digs. Kepler led a trio of Matadors with double figure kills at 13.
“It feels great for us to get our first win,” Kepler said. “We are such a young team but it feels good to know that we have the potential to be a great team.”
CSUN played their final match of the tournament against undefeated and 23rd-ranked Saint Mary’s.
Kaui Salzman had 16 kills and Missie Stidham added 15 to lead Saint Mary’s to a 30-17, 30-25, 27-30, 32-30 match victory over the Matadors to win the 2005 Fremont Investment and Loan Invitational title.
CSUN had a valiant effort from Hanson, who had a match-high 18 kills, while Probert added 15. The Matadors also received 54 assists and 13 digs from Wright and Crawford, who finished the tournament with 25 digs.
“I thought we played very composed against St. Mary’s, this is something I am real happy to see,” Stork said. “We played a majority of the match at their level, which is important for such a young team.”
Saint Mary’s wound up out-hitting the Matadors .215 (58-23-163) to .188 (67-34-176) and out-blocking CSUN 17.5 to 11.0. Kirk had 8.0 blocks for the Gaels and Donaldson had one solo and seven assisted blocks for the Matadors.
Saint Mary’s finished the tournament with a perfect 3-0 record, while the Matadors, Arizona State and UNLV all finish at 1-2.
Salzman was named to the all-tournament team and received the tournament MVP. Other members from the all-tournament team included Lauren Miramontes from UNLV, Missie Stidham from Saint Mary’s, Nicole Morton, from Arizona State, Jenn Probert, and Kelley Hanson from CSUN.
The Matadors next games will be against Colorado State, Pepperdine and Northern Iowa. All matches will be played in Malibu as part of the Pepperdine Classic starting Friday night at 5 p.m. in Malibu.
“I think we will be a lot better next week,” Wright said. “I am excited to play some more good teams like Pepperdine, CSU and Northern Iowa. It is the only way we will get better.”
Justin Satzman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org