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UNIVERSITY BEAT

A Lucky Pickup for Northridge

October 24, 2003|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

If Cal State Northridge pulls off an improbable Big West Conference women's volleyball championship, a big part of it can be chalked up to a chance meeting between Jennifer Fopma and Jeff Stork.

Fopma and Stork met at a Pepperdine men's volleyball match in 2002. Fopma had quit the Wave women's team in spring of 2001 after two seasons. Stork, a former Pepperdine player and men's assistant, had recently taken the Northridge women's coaching job.

"I jokingly said to her, 'Hey, do you want to come play at Northridge?' " Stork recalled. "I saw her two weeks later and said, 'Hey, are you still interested?' "

Said Fopma: "I hadn't really thought about playing volleyball. ... I don't think I'd ever imagined being at Northridge."

Fopma, a 6-foot-3 middle blocker, joined the Matadors this season and has helped put them in contention in a league long dominated by Long Beach State and UC Santa Barbara. Northridge, 11-6 overall and 7-3 in the Big West, defeated Long Beach (11-6, 6-4) in four games Thursday and will host league co-leader UC Irvine (16-5, 7-2) Saturday.

After sitting out the 2001 and 2002 seasons, Fopma has made an immediate impact. The former Cerritos Valley Christian player leads Northridge in kills and blocks and ranks third in the conference with 5.95 total points per game. Moreover, she is enjoying volleyball after leaving Pepperdine, where she said her game was confined under Coach Nina Matthies.

"It's a learning process, but I think it worked out for the best," Fopma said.

It could be Fopma's only season with the Matadors. The NCAA did not clear her to compete last season because she did not complete enough units as an upper-division transfer student. Stork said the school is petitioning to get back the lost year.

"I know I really want it back," she said. "I really like Jeff and I think he's a good coach."

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In what can be a week of milestones, Matthies needs one victory to reach 400. She can get it when the fifth-ranked Waves face No. 16 San Diego tonight at Firestone Fieldhouse. Matthies has a 20-year record of 399-235.

Last weekend, Pepperdine men's water polo Coach Terry Schroeder won his 300th match and USC women's soccer Coach Jim Millinder picked up his 100th career win.

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With its five-game upset victory over Cal, UCLA avoided its first loss in 43 matches overall against the Golden Bears in women's volleyball. In the latest coaches' poll, the Bruins moved up two spots to ninth, while Cal fell from fifth to seventh with its first two losses this season.

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Cal State Bakersfield recorded victories over top-ranked volleyball teams in consecutive matches. The Roadrunners defeated UC San Diego, then ranked No. 1 in Division II, and came back to hand Fresno Pacific, No. 1 in the NAIA, its first loss of the season.

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