Weekend in Malibu set for women’s volleyball tournament

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There is nothing like taking a trip to Malibu after a long first-week of classes, which is what the CSUN women’s volleyball team will be doing this weekend.

However, the girls will not be lying on the sand, they will be playing in what could be the toughest part of their schedule at the Pepperdine Classic.

The action begins Sept. 2 at 5p.m., when the Matadors take on No. 22 Colorado State who are opening their season against Northridge.

Colorado State, projected to finish third in the Mountain West Conference, returns three starters and seven letter winners from last year’s team and a record of 26-4.

Senior Tess Rogers is Colorado State’s top returning hitter at 3.92 kpg while rightside hitter Dre Downs averaged 2.93 kpg last season.

Head coach Tom Hilbert is in his ninth season with the Rams and has a 220-45 record. Friday’s match will be the fourth meeting all-time between the Matadors and Rams with Colorado State holding a 3-1 lead. The two teams have not played one another since the 2003 season when the Rams defeated CSUN 3-0 in their own Coors Classic Tournament.

CSUN’s second match of the tournament will be Saturday morning at 10a.m. against the host No. 25 Pepperdine Waves. The Waves open their season on Friday night against Northern Iowa.

Pepperdine, who is picked as the co-favorites to win the West Coast Conference, returns 11 letter winners and five starters from last season’s 10-15 team. Senior outside hitter Katy Daly averaged 4.05 kills and 3.08 digs per game last season while senior setter Melissa Mehlhorn averaged 12.16 assists per game and 3.04 dpg.

Head coach Nina Matthies returns for her 23rd season with the Waves and has a 421-251 record. Saturday’s match will be the 11th meeting all-time between the Matadors and Waves with Pepperdine holding an 8-2 advantage in the series. The two teams last met in 1995 in Northridge with the Waves winning 3-1

The Matadors final match of the tournament will be against the undefeated University of Northern Iowa Panthers this Saturday night.

Northern Iowa opened their season last Saturday, 3-0 over Illinois-Chicago, then defeated Northern Illinois 3-0 in DeKalb, Illinois.

Sophomore Laura Rowen led the Panthers by averaging 3.57 kills in the two matches, while setter Kristin Belzung averaged 12.14 assists per game. Rowen also had a career-high 26 digs in the win over Northern Illinois. UNI returns three starters and eight letter winners from last year’s 22-10 team.

Head coach Bobbi Petersen returns for her sixth season with the Panthers and has a 135-30 record. Saturday’s match will be the first-ever meeting between the Matadors and Panthers.

This tournament is also a homecoming of sorts for CSUN head coach Jeff Stork who will visit Pepperdine for the first time as an opposing head coach since he played for the Waves from 1982 to 1984.

“Pepperdine, Colorado State and Northern Iowa were all top-ranked teams last year and are really good teams,” said head coach Jeff Stork. “It is good to stay close to home.”

Justin Satzman can be reached at justin.satzman95@csun.edu