IRVINE, Calif. - Cal State Northridge was picked to finish third for the second straight season by the Big West Coaches in the conference's annual preseason poll released Tuesday, Aug. 6.
The Matadors received 59 points which was third behind only Hawai'i (81 points) and Long Beach State (72). The defending champion Rainbow Wahine received all nine first-place votes and were the unanimous preseason favorite for the second consecutive year.
UC Davis (43) was tabbed fourth followed by UC Irvine (40), UC Santa Barbara (36), Cal State Fullerton (35), Cal Poly (28) and UC Riverside (11).
If the preseason poll proves accurate, the top three teams would finish in exactly the same places as they did to close the 2012 season. Hawai'i finished first with an unblemished 18-0 conference mark, while the 49ers (13-5) were second one win ahead of CSUN (12-6). The Matadors were one of five Big West teams to stretch the Rainbow Wahine to five sets in 2012, falling in the fifth set 19-17 at home on Oct. 12.
Head coach Jeff Stork heads into his 12th season with one of the most experienced teams he's had at CSUN. The Matadors return every starter with the exception of libero Cindy Ortiz. Defensive specialist Monica McFarland also graduated but this years team will be built around junior Casey Hinger, senior Sydney Gedryn, junior Natalie Allen, senior Mahina Haina, senior Britney Graff and junior Sam Kaul.
Hinger, a two-time first team All-Big West selection, became the first Matador since Jen Ryan in 2004 to earn AVCA All-America recognition. This past season she led the Big West in blocking at 1.34 blocks per set while also averaging 2.52 kills per set. Gedryn, a first team all-conference setter in both 2011 and 2012, averaged 9.83 assists per set last season while finishing seventh in the Big West in hitting at .284. Allen, also a two-time first team All-Big West pick (2010, 2011) returns to the lineup after missing a majority of the 2012 season due to an injury.
Haina, who has led the Matadors in kills in each of the past two seasons, averaged a team-high 2.71 kills per set in 2012 and was named honorable mention All-Big West for the second straight season. Graff, Kaul and sophomore Cieana Stinson also were instrumental in the Matadors winning 21 matches in 2012, the highest win total for a Cal State Northridge team since 1996. The Matadors also welcome in four new players hoping to help CSUN reach the top of the Big West this season.
A challenging 2013 season gets underway Aug. 30 as the Matadors take on Santa Clara in the opening match of the Bulldog Classic at Fresno State. Northridge will also take on Rice and host Fresno State to wrap up the season-opening tournament.
The Matadors open the home schedule on Sept. 17 against Seattle in The Matadome at 7 p.m.
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