The Cal State Northridge women's volleyball team has been successful in its first year at the Division I level, but the Matadors are not yet giant killers.
The Matadors' last chance this season for an upset fell by the wayside Friday night in a 15-8, 17-15, 18-16 home loss to San Diego State, which is ranked 10th in the NCAA Division I West regional poll.
The Aztecs of the Western Athletic Conference improved to 17-9 and kept alive their hopes of a return to the 32-team NCAA tournament. CSUN dropped to 18-8 with six matches remaining.
Although CSUN has a good chance of finishing with 24 wins, it is probably out of the running for an independent berth in the NCAA tournament. Each time this season the Matadors had a chance to earn what the NCAA terms a significant win, they came up short. Five of their losses came against teams that were ranked in the Top 20 nationally.
CSUN's chances for a berth in the NIT of volleyball, the Women's Intercollegiate Volleyball Tournament, remain strong, however.
"I think they should be invited," San Diego State Coach Rudy Suwara said after his team swept the Matadors. "In fact, I predict that they'll win it if they go. They'll definitely be in the top four.
"We were real fortunate to beat them three straight. It was a tough match."
CSUN's Marianne Dixon finished with six digs, five blocks and a team-high 18 kills. Her twin Kathleen had 15 digs, 12 kills and three service aces. Beth Welch led the Matadors with 18 kills and played her usually superb setting game.
"The only thing that held us back was serve-receive," she said. "There were a lot of momentum swings, especially in the first two games. We really needed the second and the third game. It was really disappointing."
After falling behind, 2-0, in the first game, Northridge took control. With Dawn Krenik serving, CSUN scored five consecutive points, two on Krenik aces.
Between a series of side-outs the Matadors increased their lead to 8-3, then went stone cold. On its next five possessions, CSUN went scoreless while the Aztecs scored in spurts of two points (consecutive aces by jump server Gracie Schutt), then five points, four points, and game point. While Schutt, and teammates Dena Jones and Pam Hope put the ball away for several of the points, CSUN's errors, including a net violation and a double hit, also helped San Diego State.
Although momentum seemed to favor the Aztecs after the 15-8 win, CSUN opened the second game with five consecutive points--all with Welch serving. Marianne Dixon contributed two kills and a block, Nancy Nicholls knocked one down and the Aztecs misfired on a kill attempt.
San Diego State scored two points on its ensuing possession and four in a row after allowing CSUN a point to tie the score, 6-6.
Over the next 20 minutes, the score was tied six times with the Aztecs finally prevailing, 17-15.