NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Cal State Northridge notched its second consecutive sweep Friday night as the 10th-ranked Matadors improved to 3-0 on their current four-match homestand with a 25-23, 25-18, 25-20 non-conference win over Grand Canyon.
The victory bumps CSUN to 3-1 overall as the Matadors held off the Antelopes (2-3) in the first-ever meeting between the two schools.
Despite the match score it wasn't easy at the outset for Northridge as the visiting Antelopes came out firing in the opening set. A kill by GCU's Ryan Mather on the opening point of the match gave the Antelopes a lead they would hold a majority of the set. The Matadors kept the Antelopes within reach until a Ben Ponnet kill gave Grand Canyon an 11-8 lead forcing a CSUN timeout.
The lead grew to 12-8 after Brandon Lebrock's attack went wide and GCU eventually opened up a five-point cushion at 16-11 when Kyle Stevenson's swing was stuffed by an Antelope triple block. Grand Canyon still led by five at 17-12 when the Matadors mounted a challenge. After cutting the lead to three at 19-16, a Lebrock kill followed by a Jared Moore-John Baker block got CSUN within one.
But the Antelopes would not surrender the lead and looked to take control after a two-point run boosted the lead back to three at 21-18. Northridge then engineered a 4-1 run, highlighted by a pair of Baker kills, to knot things at 22-22. A Christian Ward kill on the ensuing point gave GCU its final point of the frame as CSUN scored the final three points on a Drew Staker kill, an Antelope hitting error and a solo block from Travis Magorien.
After hitting .194 in the opening set, Northridge took control of the match hitting .308 in set two and .609 in the third and final set. Set two was tight with the Matadors clinging to an 18-17 lead when a pair of Lebrock kills sandwiched around a Magorien ace gave CSUN the margin it needed to pull away late in a 25-18 decision. In set three, the Matadors bolted out to a 9-4 lead and never looked back. Northridge connected for 16 kills in 23 swings with just two errors to salt away the match with the 25-20 victory.
"They went to their middles a lot in set one and we really couldn't stop them," said Matador head coach Jeff Campbell. "They hit a lot of off-speed roll shots and tips that we did not do a very good job defending. I thought we made some adjustments and really started serving and defending better in games two and three."
Stevenson put down a career-high 10 kills while hitting .350 to pace the Matadors who also got nine kills apiece from Baker and Lebrock. Lebrock also had a pair of aces, five digs and three blocks in the win. Magorien dished out 33 assists while leading CSUN to a .350 hitting clip, the Matadors' best of the season. The sophomore setter also had one ace and was the Matadors' top blocker with a career-best six. Jared Moore added seven kills (.600) and four blocks out of the middle. Libero's Charlie Condron and Nick Alegrado combined for eight digs as Northridge posted a 29-23 advantage in team digs and a 10-7.5 blocking advantage.
Gerrard Lipscombe had a team-high nine kills (.278) for the Antelopes who struggled to a .191 hitting effort as a team after hitting .250 in the opening set.
Cal State Northridge returns to MPSF play next week as the Matadors conclude their four-match homestand against UC Irvine at 7 p.m.
- GO MATADORS -