Advertisement

VALLEY/VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Little Wonder Why He's Made Big Impact

April 12, 1998|MIKE BRESNAHAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

NORTHRIDGE — Chad Strickland stalked onto the court at Cal State Northridge, a hulk of a human being, and dominated men's volleyball the second he started playing it.

In his dreams.

"I was a scrawny little kid when I came to this school," said Strickland, a few days away from concluding his playing career at Northridge. "I weighed a buck-sixty."

He's gained all of 10 pounds on his 6-foot-1 frame since he arrived five seasons ago, but has penetrated the Matadors' Top 10 in almost every statistical category thanks to a 42-inch vertical leap, a powerful arm swing, smooth passing skills and floor-burning efforts on defense.

His stubbornness hasn't hurt, either.

When the men's volleyball team was cut last summer for budget and gender-equity reasons, Strickland was offered scholarship money from Stanford, Hawaii, UC Santa Barbara and USC, all of which were looking to employ a hired gun at outside hitter for one season.

But Strickland stayed the course at Northridge and the program was eventually reinstated.

"Years ago, I made a commitment to this school and I wanted to honor that commitment," Strickland said. "I wonder if the team that I 'hypothetically' went to would have been better, but I have no regrets."

On the Northridge career charts, Strickland is third in kills, third in attempts, third in digs, fifth in aces and eighth in blocks, which is surprising when considering the quiet start to his career.

The Hart High graduate redshirted his first season at Northridge and contributed 172 kills as a freshman in 1995.

Then came his sophomore season, where he delivered 447 kills and led the team with 254 digs and 35 aces. He posted similar numbers as a junior: 522 kills, 215 digs and 28 aces.

After a slow start this season because of a sore right shoulder, Strickland has continued his assault on the record books. He had 43 kills in two matches and 42 in another. The school record is 44 held by Ken Lynch and Bob Samuelson.

Strickland had 90 attempts against Pacific.

"I'm surprised his arm hasn't fallen off," Northridge Coach Jeff Campbell said. "He's one of the best players for his size that we've ever had. We'll miss him."

The only domino left to fall for Strickland is All-American honors this season. Already a two-time All-American, Strickland could become just the second player in Northridge history to be selected three times, joining Coley Kyman.

The team's substandard record (9-13, 5-12 in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) could hurt Strickland's chances, though he prefers to take the optimistic route.

"I don't think the team's record should have too much of an effect on it," he said. "Given the circumstances, I'd think that it would help me even more. I just wonder if that'll happen."

When Northridge's season concludes Tuesday at UC Santa Barbara, Strickland will have volleyball-related options in his future.

He is considering a professional career in Europe or he might stay at Northridge, pursue a master's degree in psychology and join the Matadors' coaching staff next season as a graduate assistant.

"It's kind of scary," Strickland said. "When you play four or five years of college volleyball, all the decisions are made. When volleyball's over, it's time to make some decisions."

Northridge's program has made a decisive step in the right direction, having received commitments from three touted high school seniors. The play of sophomores Junior Mosones and Adam Black also gives the team something positive to build on next season.

"I'm happy for these guys next year," Strickland said. "They're losing me, but I don't think they'll have any problems picking up the slack. There won't be a void."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|