Matadors Continue Tough Road Swing at USC Classic

Matadors Continue Tough Road Swing at USC Classic

This Week's Matador Women's Volleyball Release


Match #4: Northridge at No. 4 USC * Thursday, Aug. 30 * Galen Center * 7:00 p.m.
Match #5: Northridge vs. Mercer * Friday, Aug. 31 * Galen Center * 5:00 p.m.
Match #6: Northridge vs. No. 14 Duke * Saturday, Sept. 1 * Galen Center * 11:00 a.m.

Cal State Northridge (1-2) continues its tough early season tournament slate as the Matadors travel south to the USC Classic in Los Angeles beginning on Thursday. The Matadors will meet fourth-ranked USC (3-0) on Thursday at 7 p.m., followed by matches with Mercer (1-0) on Friday at 5 p.m. and No. 14 Duke (3-0) on Saturday at 11 a.m. Northridge and USC have met 21 times with the Trojans holding a 20-1 lead in the series. The last time the two teams met was during the 2003 season when the Trojans took a 3-1 win in The Matadome. The Matadors have never faced Mercer or Duke.

Thursday's Northridge-USC match will be broadcast at with Paul Duchesne handling the play-by-play. Friday's match against Mercer and Saturday's match against Duke will be available through Gametracker at

Thursday's web broadcast can be accessed at:

Northridge opened its 33rd season of women's volleyball with a win (Fresno State) and two losses (San Francisco, No. 8 Washington) at the Husky Classic in Washington last weekend. The Matadors, behind 22 kills from Alex Johnson and 16 from Harmony Burdine got the season off to a winning start with a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over Fresno State. On Saturday, Northridge jumped out to a two-game lead on San Francisco only to see the Dons storm back to take a 3-2 win. The Matadors closed the tournament with a 3-0 loss to No. 8 Washington.

If an all-tournament team was selected at the Husky Classic in Washington last weekend, Alex Johnson would most likely have been the Matadors representative. Johnson, a freshman outside hitter from Westlake Village, had 41 kills (3.15 per game) in three matches while hitting a solid .286. Johnson also added 29 digs (2.23 per game) and seven block assists while totaling 44.5 points. She posted a double-double (22 kills, 20 digs) in her collegiate debut against Fresno State and added 12 kills in Northridge's five-game loss to San Francisco.

Northridge libero's Kelley Hanson and Amy Hultner both reached the top 10 in Matador rally scoring records with 29 digs in a match. Hanson posted 29 digs in the opener against Fresno State and Hultner matched that with 29 digs against San Francisco. Hultner's total is a new career-high, eclipsing the 26 digs she posted at UC Santa Barbara in 2006. Hanson's career-best in digs is 32 set at San Jose State also during the 2006 season. The all-time Northridge record for digs in a single match is 44 set by Amy Gillis against Sacramento State in 1996. The rally scoring era (2001-present) record is 36 set by Jamie Crawford against Arizona State in 2005.

Last season, the Matadors were the top serving team in the Big West Conference averaging 1.82 aces per game. Three Northridge players (Hultner, Kayla Wright, Harmony Burdine) were ranked among the top 10 in individual service aces. After three matches this season, Northridge ranks tied for sixth in the conference averaging 1.00 aces per game, while no Matador player is among the top 10 in the conference. Wright and Angela Hupp both currently share the team lead with three service aces (0.23 per game).

With 74 assists in three matches last weekend, junior setter Kayla Wright moved into sixth-place on the Cal State Northridge career assists list with 1,557. Wright is now 163 assists from reaching Laura Woiemberghe (1,720 career assists from 1998-99) and sixth-place. Nadine Nickel (2001-04) is the Matadors' career assists leader with 4,798 helpers. Junior Val Kepler is within striking distance of the career top 10 in blocks. Kepler had 14 blocks in last weekend's action to boost her career total to 212. With 46 more blocks, Kepler will move past Chris Tedeschi and into 10th-place all-time.

Head coach Jeff Stork had this to say about last weekend's tournament in Washington:

"Having only two weeks of practice time to get ready and being the first weekend of the season, I thought we learned a lot," said Stork. "The outside hitters, in particular, had a good weekend, but we need to stay disciplined in the system we're running."

On this weekend's USC Classic which features two teams ranked among the top 15 teams in the nation:

"I suspect it will be a similar kind of weekend in terms of talent levels of the opposition," said Stork. "I look at the tough schedule as something you have to go through to reach an elite level."

Nine Teams, including seven in the top 25, named in the CSTV/AVCA Coaches Top 25 Preseason poll are featured on the 2007 Cal State Northridge women's volleyball schedule. UCLA, which will take on the Matadors in San Diego on Sept. 14, is the highest ranked Northridge opponent in the preseason poll at No. 5. USC (vs. Northridge, Aug. 30) is ranked sixth followed by another Pac-10 school Washington (Aug. 25) at No. 8. Big West foe Cal Poly (Sept. 22, Oct. 19) is preseason ranked 14th, followed by San Diego (Sept. 15) at No. 15. Duke (Sept. 1), which finished 29-4 last season, is ranked 18th followed by another Big West rival Long Beach State (Oct. 6, Nov. 3) at No. 19. Also receiving votes in the preseason poll include: UC Santa Barbara (Sept. 21, Oct. 20), which picked up 12 votes, and Sacramento State (Sept. 8) which received five votes.

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 coaches poll.

The win over Fresno State improved the Matadors record in season openers to 19-11 (.633) ... by splitting its matches against Fresno State and San Francisco, Northridge remained over the .500 mark (10-9) in neutral site matches under Stork.

The Matadors open the USC Classic against the host USC Trojans, who opened their season with three wins at the Trojan Invitational last weekend. USC, which is ranked fourth in this week's CSTV/AVCA top 25 poll, swept both Michigan State and Loyola Marymount while defeating St. John's in four games. Senior Asia Kaczor averages a team-best 4.10 kills per game while hitting .366. Head coach Mick Haley is in his seventh season (30th overall) at USC and sports a 161-27 school record. The Matadors' second opponent, Mercer is 1-0 heading into a Wednesday night match with Georgia. The Bears opened the season with a 3-1 home win over South Alabama last weekend. Mercer was led by senior Julie Darty's 16 kills while Karen Doris added 11 kills in the win. Head coach Noelle Hughes is in 10th season at Mercer and holds a 165-122 school record. Duke, the 14th-ranked team in the country this week, opened up with wins over East Carolina, Winthrop and Purdue last week. Juliana Traut averages a team-high 5.00 kills per game for the Blue Devils. Head coach Jolene Nagel is in her 20th season at Duke and sports a 370-223 record.