The trials and the tribulations on head coach Ashlie Hain’s bunch continued as they suffered a five set loss against CSUN in their conference opener. Hain knows that her team is placed in positions to pull out victories but lack the understanding and leadership to close out tightly contested sets.
“We haven’t been great in the 20’s and that is something that we are going to [continue] to work on in practice,” said Hain, “We’ve got to trust each other and trust the system in the 20’s and not move away from it.”
With the loss to CSUN (25-20, 23-25, 25-21, 23-25, 13-15), the ‘Eaters are now 1-3 in five-set matches and coach Hain credits their inability to finish sets on her team’s inexperience playing on the court.
“We’re young and even the seniors who are playing haven’t played this much,” said Hain, “We wanted to be good right now but at the same time even our older players are really new to the court so we have to be patient with them because they are still learning the game too.”
UCI (5-10, 0-1) nearly bested the Matadors in every category except the battle up front, being out-blocked 13-7. Sophomore Harlee Kekauoha had an impressive showing registering her third triple-double of the season with 11 kills, 24 assists, and 12 digs. The feat makes her one in five players in the nation to earn a triple-double this season. Senior Victoria Dennis once again led the ‘Eaters with 19 kills, also notching a career high nine digs. The ‘Eaters outhit (.230-233), out dug (82-76), and had more aces (6-5) than CSUN but could not gel together on the defensive end of the court.
“Our defense is poor right now and everybody is kind of on a different page”, said Hain, “We’ve had some people out coming back so that might play a factor just because it hasn’t been a consistent lineup so I’m hoping that in the future that the people that are out there learn to play together.”
Back to back double blocks early in the first set capped off a four point run and gave the ‘Eaters an 8-4 lead over the Matadors. CSUN were able to rally back and tie the score at 16 until the ‘Eaters took the reigns and won the set 25-20.
Northridge took control of the second set off a five point run to take a 12-9 lead over the ‘Eaters. At set point of 24-21 in favor of the Matadors, the ‘Eaters were able to give CSUN a scare and cut the deficit to just one until sophomore Aeryn Owens secured the set and tied things up heading into the third.
UCI answered back in the third set as they led for the entirety of the period. The ‘Eaters were able to fend off a late 7-3 spurt by the Matadors as a kill by Kekauoha sealed the 25-21 victory.
A see-saw fourth period, which included 11 tie scores, eventually saw CSUN pull out a 25-23 win to force a fifth set of play at the Bren Events Center.
With a four point run capped off by a service ace, the Matadors were able to earn a 12-9 lead in the final set and force a timeout by coach Hain. The ‘Eaters would answer back to tie the score at 13 apiece but falter and drop the set 15-13, awarding the Matadors the win in the Big West conference opener.
“It’s really disappointing and I think the girls are disappointed with their performance. I don’t think that they don’t want to play well, I just think that there is a lack of understanding of how to execute each and every play,” said Hain, “The thing about this team is that I think that we can beat anyone and lose to anyone and it’s just a matter of us executing [and] it just needs to translate in the match.”
The ‘Eaters will continue to stay at home for the weekend as they face a tough challenge on Saturday when they play their Black and Blue rival Long Beach State for a 7:00 p.m. set time.