March 2, 2012

Matadors Fall in Straight Sets to Top-Ranked UCLA

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - After pulling out a tight first set 28-26, top-ranked UCLA pulled way from No. 14 Cal State Northridge over the final two sets handing the Matadors a 28-26, 25-15, 25-22 setback in an MPSF match Friday at The Matadome.

The Matadors (6-10, 4-8 MPSF) hung tough in the first set leading 11-10 following a Danny Rodrick service ace. The Bruins quickly reclaimed the lead after a Rodrick service error and a Weston Dunlap solo block. A late rally, behind the serving of Gonzalo Quiroga, gave UCLA its largest lead at 23-19 before the Matadors engineered a 4-0 run of their own capped by a Matt Stork ace and a Stork kill. A Dunlap kill gave the Bruins set point at 24-23 but a John Baker kill saved one set point and Northridge staved off two more set points before Thomas Amberg put down a kill and Baker's attack went long giving UCLA the 28-26 decision.

The Bruins took command of set two early on, taking a 7-3 lead following a pair of Matador hitting errors. Northridge stayed within striking distance at 15-11 before UCLA pulled away with a four-point run and the Bruins cruised to the 25-15 victory and the two-set advantage.

Looking to begin the long road back, the Matadors took a 14-13 lead in set three after the second of Stork's three service aces. A Drew Staker kill kept Northridge in front 15-14 before back-to-back UCLA kills gave the Bruins the lead for good at 16-15. After falling behind 21-19, Stork served another ace to go with a kill evening the set for the final time at 21-21. A Kyle Caldwell kill from the setter position followed a Stork service error and UCLA had the margin it needed to claim set three 25-22 and the match 3-0.

After hitting a solid .324 in set one, the Matadors struggled over the final two sets hitting .031 in set two and .032 in set three as their two-match winning streak came to a halt.

"In the first set we were siding-out and the second set we didn't pass very well," said Northridge head coach Jeff Campbell. "You need to pass well to win and if we passed a little bit better in set one we'd have a better chance of winning. But UCLA is a really good team and you have to give them credit, they played well."

Baker wound up leading the Matadors with nine kills (.227) while Staker added eight kills (.778) in nine swings with six blocks. Both Stork (.000) and Brandon Lebrock (-.136) both had six kills but struggled on the offensive side. Matador libero Charlie Condron had double figures in digs for the second straight match after scooping up 12 in the loss.

The Matadors were out-hit .293-.134 and out-blocked 15.0-8.0 by the conference-leading Bruins.

"We have to keep getting better," said Campbell. "We're better today than we were last week although at times we didn't play particularly well tonight but we'll keep working." 

Nick Vogel led UCLA (17-2, 11-1 MPSF) with a match-high 11 kills (.429) while Thomas Amberg added nine kills (.615) and eight blocks. Despite having just three kills, Quiroga served a match-high six aces in the win.

Cal State Northridge continues its homestand next week as the Matadors host Ball State (Mar. 7), Loyola-Chicago (Mar. 9) and Harvard (Mar. 10) in non-conference matches.

- GO MATADORS -