Matadors Open Big West Season at UC Santa Barbara, No. 20 Cal Poly This Week

Matadors Open Big West Season at UC Santa Barbara, No. 20 Cal Poly This Week
This Week's Matador Women's Volleyball Release


Match #13: Northridge at UC Santa Barbara * Friday, Sept. 21 * The Thunderdome * 7:00 p.m.
Match #14: Northridge at #20 Cal Poly * Saturday, Sept. 22 * Mott Gym * 3:00 p.m.

Cal State Northridge (3-9, 0-0 Big West) wraps up a season-opening, 14-match road trip this week as the Matadors travel to UC Santa Barbara (5-7, 0-0) and No. 20 Cal Poly (6-6, 0-0). Northridge carries a five-match losing streak into its Big West opener at Santa Barbara on Friday at 7 p.m. Saturday's match at 20th-ranked Cal Poly is scheduled for 3 p.m. The Matadors are 17-6 (.739) all-time in conference openers, including a 6-6 (.500) mark in Big West season openers.

Friday's match at UC Santa Barbara will be broadcast live at with Paul Duchesne handling the play-by-play. For the second straight season, the Big West Conference and CSTV are partnering to bring LIVE Big West Conference volleyball home to you. A monthly subscription of $9.95 or an annual subscription of $79.95 gets you exclusive coverage of Big West women's volleyball delivered right to your computer. If you can't make it to the gym, you can still watch all the action on BigWest.TV!

Junior middle blocker Val Kepler (Simi Valley/Royal HS) and junior libero Amy Hultner (Garden Grove/Rosary HS) were both named to the USD All-Tournament team. Kepler had a team-high 23 kills, averaged 2.56 kills per game while hitting an impressive .333. She knocked down a team-high 10 kills to go with four blocks and one ace against No. 18 San Diego. Hultner recorded a team-best 40 digs (4.44 per game) over three matches and had a match-high 18 digs against No. 5 UCLA on Friday.

After defeating Manhattan on Sept. 7, the Matadors were within a win of the .500 mark at 3-4. Three of Northridge's four losses came against ranked teams (No. 8 Washington, No. 4 USC and No. 14 Duke) while the fourth was in five games to San Francisco. Since then Northridge has dropped five straight matches to slip six games below .500 at 3-9. Over the course of the five-match skid, the Matadors are being out-scored 395.5 to 274.5 and out-hit .320 (309-92-678) to .157 (231-121-699). Northridge is also on the short end in service aces (28-15) and blocks (58.5 to 28.5). On the plus side, a pair of true freshman Brittany Williams (Chino Hills/Ayala HS) and Alex Johnson (Westlake Village/Westlake HS) were two of the Matadors top hitters averaging 2.64 and 2.24 kills per game respectively over the last five matches.

After 12 matches, middle blockers Val Kepler and Lynda Morales have combined to knock down 182 kills with 70 errors in 436 swings for a hitting percentage of .257. The rest of the Matador hitters have not been as fortunate. Eight other Northridge hitters have combined for 402 kills with 204 errors in 1,274 swings for a .155 hitting clip.

The Matadors and their two opponents this week UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly are the last three teams in the Big West to play a home match. After Saturday's match in San Luis Obispo, Northridge will have played a school-record 14 matches on the road to open the season. Cal Poly and the Matadors have both played similar schedules this season with both teams having played five ranked teams thus far. Cal Poly is 1-4 against teams ranked in the top 25 while the Matadors are 0-5. The Mustangs however have won five games in those five losses while the Matadors have yet to win a game against a ranked team.

Head coach Jeff Stork had this to say about his teams' play at last weekend's tournament at San Diego:

"Having just completed our fourth tournament I hope the challenging schedule we've played will help us as we're about to start conference play," said Stork. "Having given every player significant looks we're closer to establishing a lineup and I'm anxious to see how it will develop."

On opening the Big West season at UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly this week:

"UCSB won some big matches last week and Cal Poly has played an equally tough schedule so both matches will be tough this week," said Stork. "We're anxious to find point scorers. Every team we've played has three point scorers while we're struggling for one." Stork added: "We still haven't found the consistency we need, but as we continue to evaluate our team we will continue to train hard."

Eight Teams on the 2007 Matador schedule are named in the CSTV/AVCA Coaches Top 25 poll this week. USC, which defeated the Matadors on Aug. 20, are the highest ranked Northridge opponent this week at No. 4. UCLA, which beat the Matadors last Friday in San Diego, is ranked fifth this week followed by eighth-ranked Washington which beat Northridge 3-0 on Aug. 25. Duke (def. the Matadors on Sept. 1) is ranked 14th this week followed by 15th-ranked San Diego which defeated the Matadors on Saturday. Big West foe Cal Poly (Sept. 22, Oct. 19) is ranked 20th this week while another Big West rival Long Beach State (Oct. 6, Nov. 3) and the Big Sky's Sacramento State (def. Northridge on Sept. 8) received votes in this week's top 25 poll.

Junior Kristy Nua (Palmdale/Palmdale HS) made her Matador debut last weekend. Nua, who transferred to Northridge from Antelope Valley JC, posted 17 kills, three digs and a pair of blocks in three matches last weekend ... The Matadors are 0-4 in matches on the opposing teams' home court and 3-5 on neutral courts ... After 12 matches, Northridge ranks no higher than eighth in any of the six Big West team statistical categories. The Matadors, which were the top serving team in the conference last season, ranks eighth in hitting percentage, digs and aces. Northridge is ninth among nine teams in kills, blocks and assists.

The Gauchos bring a 5-7 overall record and a three-match win streak into their Big West opener against the Matadors on Friday. UC Santa Barbara claimed the Santa Clara Invitational last weekend after defeating Saint Mary's (3-2), Notre Dame (3-1) and No. 22 Santa Clara (3-2). Sophomore Rebecca Saraceno claimed tournament MVP honors after averaging 3.64 kills and 2.79 digs per game. For the season, junior Lauren McLaughlin owns a team-best 235 kills (4.80 kpg) and also averages 3.33 digs per game. Freshman setter Dana Vargas averages 11.87 assists per game as the Gauchos are hitting .229 as a team. Head coach Kathy Gregory (Cal State Los Angeles, 1968) is in her 33rd season and sports a 789-335 career and school record.

The Mustangs, who host Long Beach State on Friday, are 6-6 heading into this week's action. Cal Poly went 1-2 last weekend at the USF Tournament in San Francisco. The Mustangs lost to Xavier (3-2) and Sacramento State (3-1) before defeating USF (3-1). Two-time Big West Player of the Week Kylie Atherstone leads Cal Poly averaging 4.17 kills per game while fellow junior Ali Waller averages 3.87 kpg. Senior libero Kristin Jackson leads the Big West averaging 5.48 digs per game. Senior setter Chelsea Hayes averages 11.80 assists per game as the Mustangs are hitting .215 as a team. Head coach Jon Stevenson (UC Santa Barbara, 1980) is in his third season at Cal Poly and sports a 48-18 school record. Overall, Stevenson is 131-85 in his eighth season.