Northridge Opens Key Big West Road Trip Friday at Pacific

Match #16 (Big West Match #4):
Northridge Matadors (8-7, 2-1 Big West) at Pacific Tigers (10-7, 1-3 Big West) 
Friday, Oct. 7, 2011 - 7 p.m. PDT
Spanos Center (6,150) - Stockton, Calif.
Live Stats:
Live Video: BigWest.TV

Match #17 (Big West Match #5):
Northridge Matadors (8-7, 2-1 Big West) at UC Davis Aggies (16-3, 2-2 Big West) 
Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011 - 7 p.m. PDT
Hickey Gym (1,600) - Davis, Calif.
Live Stats: (Gametracker)
Live Video: BigWest.TV


In a true early season conference road test, Cal State Northridge (8-7, 2-1 Big West) begins a three-match road trip this Friday at Pacific (10-7, 1-3 Big West). The Matadors, who have won two of their first three Big West matches, will also travel to UC Davis (16-3, 2-2) and Cal Poly during the three-match trip. A successful trip would boost the Matadors as they seek to improve on their best conference start in four years. Last week, CSUN split a pair of conference matches at home last week, falling to Long Beach State in four sets before sweeping conference-leading Cal State Fullerton.


All Matador home matches and conference road matches will be featured as part of the Big West live streaming package. Both matches this week will also feature live stats at The Big West Conference and the CBS College Sports Network are partnering to bring fans exclusive coverage of Big West sports, press conferences, interviews and features into your home via the Internet. Now in its seventh year, BigWest.TV covers every home and conference contest in women's volleyball.


Cal State Northridge nearly fought back from a two-set deficit but the visiting Long Beach Stare 49ers prevailed in four sets (25-21, 25-22, 16-25, 25-21) in a Big West match Friday night at The Matadome. The Matadors out-pointed the 49ers 70.0-64.0 but committed 31 hitting errors as they hit .146 on the night. Sophomore Mahina Haina paced the Matadors with a match-high 16 kills (.196) to lead three CSUN hitters in double figures. Casey Higher matched her season-high with 15 kills (.314) and Natalie Allen added 11 kills (.045). Monica McFarland's career-high 30 digs led a spirited defensive effort for the Matadors who posted a four-set season-high 85 digs as a team. On Saturday, Hinger pounded a match-high 14 kills while hitting a blistering .478 as CSUN knocked off conference-leading Cal State Fullerton 32-30, 25-21, 25-18. Hinge had 14 kills in 23 swings with just three hitting errors. She had just one hitting error and also added seven total blocks, four digs and one ace to round out a solid performance.


Pacific (10-7) dropped road matches at UC Santa Barbara (3-1) and Cal Poly (3-0) last week to slip to 1-3 in conference play. The Tigers lone Big West win came in five sets over UC Irvine on Sept. 23. Pacific has been tough at home this season where the Tigers have won six of their nine matches. Senior OH Samantha Misa leads Pacific averaging 3.97 kills per set which ranks second in the Big West. Sophomore MB Jennifer Sanders adds 2.88 kps while hitting .319 ... UC Davis (16-3) sat at the top of the conference for much of the season before road losses at Cal Poly (3-0) and UC Santa Barbara (3-2) dropped the Aggies to 2-2 in the Big West. Junior Allison Whitson paces the UC Davis attack averaging 3.72 kills per set while freshman MB Valerie Brain adds 2.54 kps. Due to a scheduling conflict the match will be played at Hickey Gym rather than The Pavilion.


Junior Monica McFarland (Riverside, Calif.) made the most of her first two starts at the libero spot this season. McFarland, who had appeared in all 13 previous matches this season as a defensive specialist, started in place of Cindy Ortiz against both Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton. Against the 49ers on Friday, she had 30 digs which is the third-best total for a four-set match in the Cal State Northridge rally scoring era. Only Ortiz (36 digs against Fullerton in 2010) and Jamie Crawford (34 digs against Northern Iowa in 2005) have more in a four-set match. All-time, McFarland's total ranks fifth in school history for a four-set match.


Freshman Mariah Counts (Poway, Calif.) has had a huge role in the Matadors' first three conference matches. Counts' tough serving was a large part of CSUN's set-turning run in the third set against Long Beach State. Counts checked with the Matadors holding a slim 10-8 lead and before she checked out, Northridge held an insurmountable 20-9 lead. The freshman from Poway, Calif., had a season-high two aces to go with three digs during the run and also kept the 49ers out of system with her serving. Counts also has had a hand in runs against UC Riverside and again against Cal State Fullerton where she served the final three points in CSUN's 25-21 win in set two. 


Sophomore setter Sydney Gedryn (San Jose, Calif.) is the only Matador player to have started all 15 matches this season. Gedryn, who leads the Matadors with 540 helpers, started against the Titans but gave way to senior Sam Orlandini in sets two and three. It was the first appearance on the court for Orlandini in 2011. Gedryn currently ranks fourth in the Big West in both assists (10.19 aps) and aces (0.30 saps) and is seventh in blocks (1.00 bps).


After 15 matches, sophomore Mahina Haina (Honolulu, Hawai'i) and freshman Casey Hinger (Fullerton, Calif.) have accounted for a bulk of the CSUN offense. Haina, with a team-high 189 kills, and Hinger with 129 kills have accounted for 318 of the Matadors' 697 kills as a team. That amounts to 45.6% of CSUN's kills total. Figure in Natalie Allen's 105 kills and three players account for over 60% of the teams' offensive output.


Casey Hinger had arguably her best hitting week of the season as the freshman from Fullerton, Calif., had 29 kills (4.14 kps) while hitting .379 in two matches. Hinger, who is hitting a team-high .265 this season, matched her season-high with 15 kills against Long Beach State ... After three conference matches, the Matadors are the conference leader in five of the seven team statistical categories. CSUN leads the conference in opponent hitting percentage (.128), assists (14.00), kills (15.00), aces (1.30) and digs (19.70). Individually, Gedryn leads the Big West in assists (11.88), Counts leads in aces (0.60) and McFarland leads in digs (5.20) ... The Matadors have been a solid road team so far in 2011. Northridge is 3-2 on opposing courts and 4-2 in neutral site matches ... Saturday's victory over Cal State Fullerton gave the Matadors their first Matadome win in four matches this season.


In the 37th season of women's volleyball at Cal State Northridge, the Matadors reached the 700-win plateau with their 3-0 win over Fresno State on Sept. 3. Now with 704 wins in 36+ years averages out to roughly 19 wins per season which was largely achieved during the programs heyday as a Division II school (1975-1989). Under the direction of Walt Ker, the Matadors posted 401 wins from 1979-1992, an average of nearly 29 wins per season. Since moving up to the Division I level in 1990, Northridge has 297 wins, including 29 in Ker's first Division I season (1990). With Saturday's win over Cal State Fullerton, the Matadors will reached 250 conference wins in 30 seasons as a conference member. CSUN now has 66 Big West wins and combined with 47 Big Sky wins, 100 CCAA wins and 37 SCAA wins, CSUN stands at 250 all-time conference victories.


Matador head coach Jeff Stork shares his thoughts each week on the team, this week's opponents and other topics.

On the importance of Big West home wins:

"In this conference you have to win on the road, and you have to win at home. The Big West is a tough conference, there are no free weekends. Every match is difficult. Home court advantage is something every team wants because they tend to be a little but stronger at home."

On the two matches last week:

"I thought the Long Beach match slipped away from us. It was real good match and an exciting match to watch. I thought we played excellent volleyball but came out on the short end. But to come back and rebound the way we did against Fullerton is a significant thing. I wasn't too excited about the quality of the volleyball in the first half of that match, we got better and better as the match went on."

On the importance of having Mariah Counts coming off the bench:

"Mariah is a calm, cool collected player and things don't faze her all that much. For her to have the ability to come in and serve the way she does really sets up our serve-block defense. She came in at Riverside and served three or four excellent balls and then served 10 straight against Long Beach."

On the upcoming road matches at Pacific and UC Davis:

"I'm sure Davis and Pacific will be tough at home this week. Davis lost in three at Cal Poly then battled and lost in five at Santa Barbara. These will be tough road matches but as we've seen so far the conference is wide open and anything is possible right now. The team that keeps its head on straight and continues to improve on a daily basis, manages their weaknesses and somehow takes advantage of other teams' weaknesses is going to find themselves at the top."


Following this week's road trip to Northern California, the Matadors will visit the central coast to take on Cal Poly (Oct. 13) before returning home to open up another two-match homestand against UC Irvine on Oct. 15.


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