Women’s volleyball loses two, but beats No. 25 Pepperdine

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CSUN women’s volleyball took one of three matches over Labor Day weekend at the Pepperdine Classic. The team lost in three straight games to No. 22 Colorado State in the opening round of the Pepperdine Classic at Firestone Fieldhouse in Malibu.

In game one, the Matadors got off to the quick lead but were not able to hang on as the Rams won 30-28. Freshmen Val Kelper and Harmony Burdine led CSUN with four kills while freshman Kayla Wright had a team-high 13 assists.

The next two games had little resemblance to game one, as the Matadors fell behind early in both games and losing both, 30-20 and 30-26.

In game two, freshman Kelley Hanson led the team with six kills while Wright had 17 assists. The Matadors had difficulty serving as the several attempts fell short and into the net.

“Our serving is a little shaky now and then,” Hanson said. “I think a lot of it is mental but it is definitely a concern for the team.”

Game three was similar to game two as the Rams got off to a big lead while the Matadors had difficulty serving and stopping the Ram attack led by seniors Tess Rogers and Dre Downs, who combined for 52 kills in the match.

CSUN made a valiant effort to get back into the game by cutting the lead to three before freshman Darla Donaldson served a ball into the net ending the game, and the match.

Hanson, Donaldson and Kepler each had seven kills to lead Northridge, including Donaldson’s team-high .462. Wright led the team with 23 assists and a team-high seven digs.

“I thought we played a very good first set, but unfortunately a couple things at the end took us out of the first game,” said head coach Jeff Stork. “I will give Colorado State some credit, but if we could pass better, we would play better.”

In their second match of the Pepperdine Classic, the Matadors faced off against tournament host, No. 25 Pepperdine Waves.

In what was one of the best performances of the teams young season, CSUN took the series in five games over the Waves 21-30, 31-33, 30-17, 30-26 and 15-12. Burdine had a match-high 19 kills while hitting .417. She had just four hitting errors in 36 swings to lead CSUN to the upset win.

“Harmony has a unique feel for the game, she has no weak spots and we are pleasantly surprised with her stats,” Stork said. “We are very happy with her.”

Freshman Jenn Probert was also a big factor for the Matadors as she had a career-high 18 kills to go with three blocks. Junior Hilary Brinkman also recorded the best match of her Northridge career with 11 kills, five digs and three blocks while hitting .579.

Donaldson reached double figures with 10 kills and five blocks. Matador setter Wright had 57 assists and nine digs while junior libero Jamie Crawford had a match-high 21 digs.

With the win, the Matadors improved to 2-3 on the season and defeated their first ranked team of the season. Pepperdine fell to 1-1 with the loss.

“With a tough pre-season schedule and having a young team, it is great to know that they can beat some top-ranked teams,” Stork said. “They played with poise and switched roles very well.”

In their final match of the Pepperdine Classic, Northridge struggled to get it started against the Northern Iowa Panthers as they lost 30-24, 30-19, 31-33 and 30-13. With the exception of Probert, who had a team high 16 kills, Donaldson also added 15 and Burdine notched 11 – no other Matador recorded more than five kills as Northridge hit just .078 (52-37-192) as a team. Crawford led the Matador defense with a match-high 34 digs.

With the win, Northern Iowa improves to 4-1 while the Matadors fell to 2-4.

“Northern Iowa was really good on the block, better than Pepperdine and it really made us struggle,” Stork said. “We know now that we need to have more offensive firepower by hitting harder.”

Cal State Northridge continues its six-match road trip as the Matadors take part in the Waikiki Beach Marriott Challenge in Honolulu, Hawaii this coming weekend.

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