Matadors Open 2007 Season With Three Matches at Husky Classic

Matadors Open 2007 Season With Three Matches at Husky Classic

This Week's Matador Women's Volleyball Release


Match #1: Northridge vs. Fresno State * Friday, Aug. 24 * Bank of America Arena * 5:00 p.m.
Match #2: Northridge vs. San Francisco * Saturday, Aug. 25 * Bank of America Arena * 1:00 p.m.
Match #3: Northridge vs. No. 8 Washington * Saturday, Aug. 25 * Bank of America Arena * 7:00 p.m.

Cal State Northridge opens its 33rd season of women's volleyball this weekend as the Matadors take part in the Husky Classic in Seattle, Wash. Northridge opens the tournament on Friday, Aug. 24 against Fresno State then will take on San Francisco and preseason No. 8 Washington on Saturday, Aug. 25. The tournament is the first of four tournaments that the Matadors will take part in to open the 2007 season. Northridge will play its first 14 matches on the road before opening the home season on Sept. 28 against UC Irvine.

The host Huskies will provide Gametracker for all matches this weekend. Click the following link to access the Husky Classic Tournament homepage:

Husky Classic Tournament Page

Since the 1978 season, Cal State Northridge is 18-11 (.621) all-time in season openers. The Matadors are 3-2 in five season openers under Jeff Stork and this weekend marks the second time in Stork's six seasons that Northridge has opened a campaign on the road. Traditionally the Matadors open their season by hosting the Fremont Investment & Loan Invitational, but this season the Invitational will take place over Thanksgiving weekend. Northridge, which defeated San Diego State at the SDSU Invitational (3-1) to open the 2006 season, is coming off a successful 16-12 season a year ago in which the Matadors finished tied for fourth in the Big West at 7-7.

With five starters and eight letterwinners returning, Cal State Northridge was picked to finish fifth in the 2007 Big West women's volleyball preseason coaches poll conducted on Wednesday, July 31. Cal Poly was the top pick to repeat as Big West champions. The Matadors, who were picked to finish seventh in the 2006 preseason poll, went on to upend those predictions by finishing in a tie for fourth place in the conference with a 16-12 overall record (7-7 Big West). Northridge was tabbed fifth after receiving 48 points in this season's preseason coaches poll.

Cal State Northridge used the 2005 and 2006 seasons as building blocks for the future. Now in the third season of that process, the Matadors head into the 2007 season with a solid core of juniors and a talented group of incoming freshmen.

After finishing 4-23 with an RPI of 290 in 2005, Northridge completed a remarkable turnaround last season finishing with an RPI of 100 after posting a 16-12 overall record. The Matadors also had two First Team All-Conference selections for the first time since 1996. In 2007, junior Harmony Burdine returns as Northridge's leader in kills (282) with Angela Hupp (236) and Siara Grayson (225) also topping 200 kills. Amy Hultner, Kayla Wright, Kelley Hanson, Burdine and Hupp combined to serve 157 aces and the Matadors led the Big West in aces by a team. Hanson also finished among the conference leaders in digs with 427, which ranks seventh on the Cal State Northridge single season list.
The 2007 incoming class will be highlighted by freshmen Alex Johnson (Westlake Village, CA/Westlake HS), Brittany Williams (Chino Hills, CA/Ayala HS), Chelsea Johnson (Wrightwood, CA/Serrano HS) and Cara Crowder (Elk Grove, CA/Christian Brothers HS).

The outside hitter position appears well-stocked with the return of Burdine, Hupp, Probert and Grayson along with Johnson and Williams.

"We've improved a lot at the outside hitter position with the addition of Alex and Brittany," said head coach Jeff Stork. "If I were to rate the importance of the outside hitter position on our team, it would be right at the top. Last year we used Siara as a non-back row outside hitter," added Stork. "She was an outstanding hitter for us and we'll continue to work on her blocking and passing. She contributed a lot to our success last year. Jenn will continue to train as an outside hitter but her primary position will be right side/non passer," said Stork. "She puts up a tremendous block and hits a heavy ball."

Johnson, a 6-1 outside hitter, was named Ventura County Star Payer of the Year and Daily News All-Area First Team after leading Westlake to a 20-5 record as a senior in 2006. She finished the 2006 season with 322 kills, 174 digs, 29 blocks and 17 aces. In addition, she is a three-time scholar athlete, a two-time All-Ventura Country selection as well as a two-time First Team All-Marmonte League selection.

"Alex is a good all-around player who possesses many of the intangibles coaches love; intensity, work ethic, teamwork, persistence and dedication,' said Stork. "I look forward to coaching Alex and having her in the gym."

Williams is a 5-11 outside hitter, earned Sierra League Most Valuable Player honors in both 2005 and 2006 as well as earning All-CIF Div. II First Team accolades. She also picked up First Team All-Inland Valley and Second Team All-CIF honors as a junior in 2005. This past season, Williams led the Bulldogs to a 25-10 record and the 2006 Sierra League championship.

"Brittany is a very exciting player to watch," said Stork. "She is very athletic and smooth in her movement and her strengths right now are at the net, hitting and blocking. She is comfortable hitting a variety of sets and blocking in all three positions along the net. She can play the game well above the net, as she can jump touch over ten feet. I look forward to expanding her game to include being a primary passer and defender."

In the middle, Northridge will have to make up for the loss of First Team All-Big West selection Darla Donaldson but Kepler and the emergence of redshirt freshman Lynda Morales will help soften the blow.

"Losing Darla will take some adjustment but Lynda coming off her redshirt year is a huge plus for us," said Stork. "She plays extremely hard and has great potential while Val is steady has learned to hit the slide better than in previous years. She understands the game better now than ever before."

Johnson, a 6-1 middle blocker, and Crowder, a 5-11 outside hitter/middle blocker, will also vie for playing time in the middle.

"Chelsea has quickness and technical ability while Cara is a solid all-around player who can also help us at the outside hitter spot," said Stork.

For the second straight season, Wright and Hupp will be responsible for running the offense. Wright comes into her junior season ranked seventh in career assists at Northridge.

"Kayla has a better feel for the game and who to set and when. She's understanding better ways to lead on the court, said Stork. "One of the thing Angela has accepted is playing all around the court as a setter and hitter," added Stork. "She's doing real well in that role and the responsibilities on her are greater than other players."

The libero/defensive specialist position will also be a strong suit for the Matadors. Hanson is the first Matador libero to earn All-Big West honors while Hultner plays solid defense and ranked second in the conference in aces last season.

"Kelley is a very steady passer and an intense serious athlete," said Stork. "Her passing is what keeps her on the court. Amy was second in the conference in aces last year and is outstanding at digging the ball," added Stork. "She needs to continue to work on her passing."

The 2007 schedule resembles the 2005 Northridge schedule which was among the toughest in the country.

"The schedule will be difficult," said Stork. "We're playing a lot of good teams including several Pac-10 teams (Washington, USC, UCLA, Oregon State) along with a couple of top 20 teams (San Diego, Duke) and a top 50 team (Sacramento State)."

Along with the challenging schedule, the Matadors will be tested by playing their first 14 matches on the road. Northridge opens the campaign at the Husky Classic in Seattle, Wash. (Aug. 24-25) before returning to California for tournaments at USC (Aug. 30-Sept. 1), Sacramento State (Sept. 7-8) and San Diego (Sept. 14-15).

"It's a little awkward to not play at home until late September," said Stork. "But we'll see how our young players adjust to playing on the road early on."

The reason for the quirky schedule is that Northridge will move its annual Fremont Investment and Loan Invitational, normally played at the beginning of the season, from late August to late November.

"We moved the Annual Fremont Investment & Loan Invitational Tournament to November to avoid the August heat in Northridge," said Stork. "But San Diego and USC are relatively close to home for us. All four tournaments have a good mix of teams and all four tournament hosts (Washington, USC, Sacramento State, San Diego) have outstanding teams."

The Matadors will open Big West Conference play on the road at conference powerhouses UC Santa Barbara (Sept. 21) and Cal Poly (Sept. 22).

The Gauchos and Mustangs are both picked among the top three in the conference with Cal Poly the favorite to repeat as Big West champions.

Northridge will open the long-awaited home schedule against UC Irvine (Sept. 28), UC Riverside (Sept. 29) and Cal State Fullerton (Oct. 2) before heading back out on the road for three matches.

The first half of the Big West season wraps up with matches at Long Beach State (Oct. 6), UC Davis (Oct. 12) and Pacific (Oct. 13).

"In the Big West, Pacific has made strides, while Fullerton made a strong move last year," said Stork. "Cal Poly returns all but one starter and are understandably favored while Long Beach always has good players."

The month of November could prove fruitful for the Matadors as they play six of their seven matches in Northridge. The sixth annual Fremont Investment & Loan Invitational (Nov. 23-24) will feature Cal State Fullerton, Idaho, Fairfield and the host Matadors.

"Each year I go into a season I think I know my team pretty well. But I don't know the other teams that well with their recent transfers, signees and injuries," said Stork. "Based on what we've done over the last two seasons I think we'll have a good season."