Baker, Lebrock Lead 10th-Ranked Matadors Past No. 8 USC

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Senior John Baker connected for a career-high 22 kills while junior Brandon Lebrock added 18 as 10th-ranked Cal State Northridge topped the visiting eighth-ranked USC Trojans 25-17, 18-25, 25-21, 25-22 in MPSF action Wednesday night at The Matadome.

After a pair of rough hitting nights in two losses last week, the Matadors (5-4, 3-4 MPSF) hit a season-high .471 committing just nine hitting errors on the night. Northridge snapped a two-match losing streak while defeating the Trojans (2-4, 2-4 MPSF) for the first time in its last six tries.

"We passed well and we served well and our outsides were able to put the ball away but for us, serving and passing was the difference tonight," said Matador head coach Jeff Campbell. "This is by far the best match that we've played this season. I still think we can get better but I'm really proud of the way we played tonight."

Baker, who's previous high in kills was 20, had a monster night with 22 kills and just three errors in 35 swings to hit .543. The senior opposite from Racine, Wis., also matched his career-high by serving three of the Matadors' six aces. Lebrock also had a solid hitting night as he added 18 kills in 28 attacks with just two errors for a season-high .571 clip. Lebrock also had two digs, two blocks and one ace in the win.

"I thought about what I could do different from our last couple of matches and tonight I worked on my contact point which really helped," said Baker. "The difference tonight was our passers really put the ball up to the net and when we do that I think we're unstoppable. It was a great team win."

After a pair of rough outings, setter Travis Magorien dished out 44 assists in steering the Matador hittters to the season-high hitting clip. Although CSUN was out-dug by the Trojans 23-17, Baker had a team-high five digs. The Matadors did manage to win the battle at the net posting a 9.5-8.0 advantage in team blocks.

Northridge trailed only briefly in the opening set as Lebrock's attack was stuffed by a pair of USC blockers giving the Trojans an 8-7 lead. Lebrock's ensuing kill tied the score and propelled the Matadors on a 10-3 run which opened up an 18-11 lead. USC would only get within six the rest of the way. CSUN hit a blistering .611 in the opening frame while limiting the Trojans to an .077 clip.

The second set saw the Trojans lead from start to finish as they opened up an early 8-5 lead following a Micah Christenson solo block. A Baker kill temporarily pulled CSUN within 9-7 but USC claimed six of the next eight points to go up 15-9. The Matadors were able to get within five (23-18) late but consecutive Trojan kills evened the match at one set apiece.

Neither team led by more than three points as the two teams battled to a 15-15 tie in set three. Following a Ben Lam service error, USC committed back-to-back hitting errors giving CSUN its largest lead of the set at 18-15. Still leading by three at 23-20, a Baker ace its largest margin and it was a Baker kill that closed the set at 25-21.

The final set was the tightest of the match as the two teams again battled to a 15-15 tie and again it was Baker who gave the Matadors a cushion as his consecutive kills put CSUN up 17-15. A Lebrock kill kept the Matadors in front by two at 18-16 before a Tanner Jansen kill narrowed the gap to one. After a Drew Staker kill, Robert Feathers answered for the Trojans and the margin was one at 19-18. But another Baker kill followed by a Staker solo block gave the Matadors the cushion they needed and USC would only get within two the rest of the way and the match ended when Jansen's serve found the net.

Jansen wound up with a match-high 24 kills (.475) to lead the Trojans who also got 10 kills from Feathers and eight from Austin Rysyk. Christenson handed out 46 assists while also serving four aces for USC in the loss.

Cal State Northridge continues its season-long, five-match homestand Friday as the Matadors host No. 5 Pepperdine at 7 p.m.


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