STOCKTON, Calif. - Several Matadors made key contributions down the stretch as 12th-ranked Cal State Northridge inched closer to an MPSF postseason berth with a hard-fought 22-25, 25-18, 26-24, 22-25, 15-13 win over No. 13 Pacific Friday night at the Spanos Center.
The Matadors (11-15 overall) picked up their seventh MPSF win and earned just their second road victory of the 2012 season. With the win, Northridge moved closer to claiming a spot in the MPSF Tournament while opening up a three-game lead over Pacific (7-18, 4-15 MPSF). UC San Diego (6-14) now trails Northridge by 1.5 games. The Matadors also moved within one game of co-sixth place teams Pepperdine (8-11) and Long Beach State (8-11) which lost at Stanford on Friday.
"Any win in the MPSF is a good win but anytime you win on the road in this conference is big," said head coach Jeff Campbell. "We haven't had that many road wins this year and this was a big one. It was a gutsy win, both teams played really hard tonight. Now we'll focus our attention on Stanford tomorrow night."
Freshman Julius Hoefer led the Matadors with a match-high 26 kills (.373) coming within one kill of his career high. The opposite from Steingaden, Germany also 10 digs, four blocks and one ace recording the first double-double of his collegiate career. Brandon Lebrock added 15 kills in a subpar hitting night (.070) but came up with several kills at crucial times for the Matadors. Junior John Baker came off the bench to spell Hoefer at opposite and also came through with six clutch kills in 13 swings (.308).
Both teams hit well in the opening set as Pacific took a 25-22 win. Neither team hit particularly well in the second set as the Matadors evened the match with the 25-18 win.
Northridge opened up a 14-9 lead in set three before the Tigers tallied six unanswered to take a 15-14 lead. But the Matadors quickly answred with a three-point run of their own on kills from Hoefer and Lebrock and a co-block from Staker and Rodrick. After a series of sideouts, Northridge tallied two straight to snap a 22-22 tie and the Matadors had two swings for the set. But Pacific answered with back-to-back points to save a pair of set points before a Lebrock kill followed by a Tiger hitting error gave Northridge the 26-24 victory.
The Tigers however were not deterred and quickly opened up an 11-6 lead in set four, forcing the Matadors to spend both of their timeouts. The Pacific lead swelled to as many as seven (13-6) before a Hoefer kill temporarily stopped the bleeding. Trailing by eight for the second time at 17-9, Northridge got back-to-back kills from Hoefer and Stevenson to cut the lead to 17-11 forcing the Tigers to call timeout. The Matadors then engineered a late run to get within one at 22-21 but that was as close as Northridge would get the rest of the way and the two teams would head to a fifth set for the second time this season.
The Tigers got off to a quick start getting kills on the first two points of set five before Northridge answered with a four-point run and the Matadors would not trail again. Northridge again led by two at 7-5 and 9-7 but the Tigers answered each time. With the score knotted at 10-10, kills from Lebrock and Kyle Stevenson gave the Matadors another two-point cushion 12-10. After a Baker service error pulled Pacific within 12-11, Drew Staker, Stevenson and Baker teamed up to stuff a Pacific attack giving the Matadors a 13-11 lead.
A trio of sideouts gave Northridge match point at 14-13 and Rodrick and Jared Moore put up a block on Matthew Houlihan and the Matadors pulled out the 15-13 win.
Taylor Hughes led the Tigers with 19 kills (.341) while Florian Gornik added 12 kills (.025) for Pacific which hit .193 as a team.
Cal State Northridge plays its final road match of the regular season Saturday as the Matadors head to Stanford to take on the fifth-ranked Cardinal at 7 p.m.
- GO MATADORS -