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Northridge Finds Hole in Middle

Women's volleyball: USC exploits Matador weakness at the net in 15-5, 15-9, 15-8 victory.


The beginning was rough and so was the end, but the culprit could be found in the middle.

The Cal State Northridge women's volleyball team couldn't attack or defend the middle and lost to ninth-ranked USC, 15-5, 15-9, 15-8, Tuesday night at USC.

Trojan middle blocker Jasmina Marinkovic, an All-Pacific 10 Conference selection last season as a sophomore, dominated with 12 kills in 18 attempts and a .556 hitting percentage to help USC beat Northridge for the 20th time in 21 matches.

USC had 11 team blocks, Northridge two.

The Matadors were thin in the middle. Starter Crystal Newquist was out with a strained right calf and Angie Herrera was out with a sprained left ankle.

The Matadors (6-2) entered the season without two starting middle blockers. All-Big Sky Conference selection Getty Dimitrova got married and moved to Idaho during the off-season, and Allwyn Fitzpatrick was declared academically ineligible.

The Northridge emergency plan called for outside hitter Holli Sierra and setter-outside hitter Rene Goth to start in the middle Tuesday. Their combined college experience at their new positions is nine matches.

"[USC] put up a huge block," said Goth, a former standout at Buena High. "We might have been a little intimidated at first."

It showed in the first game, when Northridge hit .000 as a team (eight kills and eight errors).

Marinkovic, on the other hand, delivered a kill on five of her six attempts for an .833 percentage.

"We play a much, much faster offense," Marinkovic said. "It was kind of easy because we passed well and our defense worked very well. Even if I had two blockers, I knew they couldn't stop me, but most of the time it was one-on-one."

The Matadors improved in the second game and trailed, 10-9, before the Trojans (6-0) rattled off five consecutive points.

In the third game, the Matadors led, 8-7, before USC ran off eight points to end the match.

Nancy Ma of Northridge finished with eight kills and five errors in 29 attempts for a .103 hitting percentage.

"Once we blocked [Ma] a few times, they had to find someone else," Marinkovic said. "But no one else could do anything."

The only Northridge starter to hit over .200 was setter Ellie Flato (six kills and a .385 percentage).

Five of USC's six starters hit at least .250, including freshman outside hitter Antoinette Polk, who had 10 kills in 18 attempts.

Help may be on the way for the Matadors.

Newquist and Herrera are expected back within two weeks, possibly before the conference opener at Idaho State on Sept. 18.

"Once we get the hurt ones back, we'll be all right," said Goth, who finished with six kills.

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