NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Coming off its first Big West Championship in 2013, CSUN and head coach Jeff Stork have announced the 2014 Matador women's volleyball schedule.
The Matadors, tri-conference champions in 2013 with a 13-3 record, finished 24-7 overall and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time in school. CSUN upset Colorado State in five sets in the opening round before falling to USC in the second round.
As was the case in 2013, the Matadors will play a challenging non-conference schedule prior to the slate of 16 Big West matches. The 11 teams CSUN will face over the first month of the season had a combined 229 wins and a winning percentage of .647 in 2013. In addition, five of the Matadors' non-conference opponents qualified for the NCAA Tournament while a pair (San Diego, Stanford) reached the regional round.
"We're trying to do something similar to what we did last year and that's schedule a lot of 20-win teams and teams that have a high RPI," said CSUN head coach Jeff Stork. "Some of the names might be a bit unknown to schools on the west coast but again they're good teams with solid RPI's."
The Matadors open the 2014 season Aug. 29 in Las Vegas as CSUN will take on the host UNLV Rebels (twice) and Western Kentucky. UNLV was 16-14 a season ago while the Hilltoppers enjoyed a 27-6 season which earned them the top seed in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.
"We play UNLV twice in the first tournament, they are an up-and-coming team while Western Kentucky is a top-25 quality team and a very good team for us to play," said Stork.
CSUN next travels to Tucson, Ariz. to take on Arizona, Alabama State and Loyola-Chicago in the Arizona Invitational (Sept. 5-6). Both the host Wildcats (21-13) and Alabama State (25-16) won 20 matches in 2013 while Loyola finished at 13-18.
"Pac-12 teams always present a challenge while Alabama State had a lot of wins last year," said Stork.
The final two tournaments send the Matadors to Norman, Okla. for the Nike Invitational (Sept. 10-12) and down the coast to San Diego (Sept. 19-20). CSUN will meet the host Sooners, Portland State and Arkansas-Little Rock at the Nike Invitational and Eastern Washington, Stanford and the host San Diego Toreros the following weekend. Five out of the six teams the Matadors will face over the two weekends had at least 20 victories in 2013.
"The Oklahoma tournament is probably the highest RPI tournament on our schedule this year," added Stork. "All three teams were strong last season and we're expecting something similar this year. In San Diego we will play teams from the Pac-12 and West Coast Conference which are two of the power conferences in volleyball. San Diego was as high as No. 3 last year while I think Stanford is one of the favorites to reach the Final Four."
The Big West campaign opens Sept. 26 at Cal State Fullerton, the first of three consecutive road matches to open conference play. CSUN will host fellow conference champion Hawai'i in its home opener on Oct. 10 and will travel to the third team to grab a share of the 2013 title, UC Santa Barbara the following weekend (Oct. 18).
Other key dates for the Matadors on the conference slate include Nov. 1 against Long Beach State which is also expected to challenge for the Big West title in 2014, Nov. 8 at Hawai'i where the Matadors will try to win for the first time in school history and Nov. 14 when CSUN hosts the Gauchos who knocked off the Matadors in the 2013 regular season finale.
"Parity is the key word when it comes to the Big West," said Stork. "Last year the three stronger teams came out on top with Long Beach close behind but this season you never know. Long Beach has brought in a lot of different players than they've had in the past, Hawai'i is a very different team but I know they will figure something out and Santa Barbara was a young team and I don't see a ton of changes in their lineup.
"I think that we're going to be a similar type of team as far as the strength of the team," added Stork. "I think we may win in a slightly different way than we have in the past, our offense will be slightly stronger but our defense may not be as strong. Our schedule is difficult but we'll be better and we're really excited about the prospects of what's going to happen this fall."
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