The Cal State Northridge women’s volleyball team played its final two home matches of the 2006 season and got a split, losing its first match on Nov. 16 to the Long Beach State 49ers in four games before rebounding to sweep the UC Irvine Anteaters two days later.
Against Long Beach, the Matadors got great performances from their two freshmen, Angela Hupp and Siara Grayson. Hupp had a team-high 22 kills while Grayson had 16. Senior Hilary Brinkman also was a factor, as she had a career-high 13 kills. Long Beach was led by Alexis Crimes, who had 20 kills.
“I know we played hard, but it didn’t seem to go our way,” Hupp said.
Long Beach dominated game one from the start. The 49ers jumped out to a 7-2 lead and later led by as many as six. CSUN tried to stay in the match, but the 49ers won three straight sets, turning a 15-10 lead into an 18-10 lead and cruising from there, winning game one 30-18.
The 49ers carried the momentum into game two, winning the first four sets. Long Beach later increased its lead to eight at 13-5, forcing a CSUN timeout. The Matadors were able to stay in the game, slowly chipping away at the 49er lead. CSUN, though, could get no closer than two points, and trailing 24-22, the Matadors saw Long Beach win four of the next five sets to take a 28-23 lead. The Matadors kept pushing though, winning three straight sets and one more following a rare Long Beach timeout to get within a point of a tie, but Crimes soared high for a kill and a Matador four-hit violation ended game two in Long Beach’s favor 30-27.
Game three was close all the way. The 49ers held no more than a four-point lead. Then, with Long Beach leading 23-21, CSUN won three straight sets to take the lead for the first time in the match and force a Long Beach timeout. Crimes tied the game, but kills by Brinkman and Kepler gave the Matadors a 26-24 lead. The 49ers came back with two in a row and went ahead, but Siara Grayson kept CSUN in the game, tying the game on three occasions to force sudden death. Long Beach went ahead in the sudden death, its last time at 31-30 until a Burdine kill, followed by a Matador block, put CSUN ahead. Crimes tied the game, but a Kepler block and a Brinkman kill ended game three 34-32 and kept the Matadors alive in the match.
“I try to do the best I can,” Grayson said. “I was just hitting as hard as I could.”
The Matadors carried the momentum into the start of game four, jumping out to a 4-0 lead. Long Beach came back with five in a row to take the lead. CSUN came back with three straight points and Long Beach followed with consecutive points to tie the game. Throughout the rest of the match, both teams alternated multiple scoring runs with several lead changes. With the score at 29-28, Long Beach’s Mariko Crum smashed a kill to the left side to give Long Beach a 30-28 win.
“We had a lot of errors that we shouldn’t have had, but we worked our hardest,” Grayson said.
CSUN actually had more attacks (188) than Long Beach (163), but it was the 49ers who had the better overall hitting percentage (.325) than the Matadors (.271).
“It all comes down to hitting percentage for the most part,” head coach Jeff Stork said. “We’re creating opportunities, but we’re not terminating as much as we need to.”
The Matadors’ four-game loss brought its losing streak to three, but the Matadors weren’t about to let it reach four. While honoring two seniors, Brinkman and Colleen Tobin, CSUN responded mightily in its final home games against UC Irvine, sweeping the Anteaters by scores of 30-24, 30-28 and 30-26.
Game one started out close. Irvine led 6-5 until CSUN won four of five sets to lead 9-7. Then, following a Chelsea Ellis kill, the Matadors won four straight sets to take a 13-8 lead. The Matadors got two more points following a timeout to lead by seven. Irvine got as close as four, but the Matadors didn’t let them get closer, and eventually raised their lead to double digits. With the score 28-18, Irvine managed to win six more sets but a kill by Hupp ended game one.
The last two games were close all the way, but CSUN found a way to win both games and therefore earned the sweep. In game two, the Matadors held a 22-18 lead, but Irvine won four straight points to tie the match, but the Matadors won three sets to reclaim the lead, only to see Irvine win three in a row to tie the game again. CSUN got the ball back on a net serve, but Kristin Kelley went off a CSUN block and McCall Miller smashed a kill off Grayson to put Irvine ahead 27-26. Hupp tied the game with a kill, then teamed up with Kepler to deny an Anteater attack to put the Matadors back in front. Kelley tied the game at 28, but consecutive kills by Burdine won game two for CSUN, putting them ahead by two games in the match.
Game three was also close. CSUN had a slim 12-11 lead until it won four straight points to open up a 16-11 lead. The Matadors won two more sets to make a seven-point game, but Irvine won four of five sets to cut the lead to 19-15, forcing a CSUN timeout. The Anteaters then won five of six points to tie the game at 20, but Brinkman and Kepler gave the Matadors a two-point lead.
Irvine again caught fire, winning the next three sets to take a 23-22 lead, but the Matadors won three of their own to take a 25-23 lead. Kelley went off a Matador block for a kill, then hooked up with Taryn Robertson on a kill-block to tie the game at 25. The Matadors, though, won four of the next five sets to put themselves at match point. Not even an Irvine timeout could prevent the inevitable, as Hupp denied an Anteater attack to seal the match for CSUN.
“We just worked through our little runs of losses of points,” Brinkman said “We kind of just worked through it, figured out what we needed to do and capitalized on their mistakes.”
Donaldson led the Matador attack with 10 kills while Burdine and Grayson each had nine. Burdine also had 11 digs while Hanson had a team-high 14. Wright had 18 assists and Hupp had nine. Lauren Kellerman led Irvine with 13 kills and McCall had 12.
CSUN finished its Big West Conference slate with a 7-7 record, which is a huge contrast to its 2-12 conference record last season. The Matadors followed with one more match in their 2006 regular season. The Matadors traveled down the 405 to face Loyola Marymount last night.