LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Wins in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation are difficult to come by and conference win number 10 is proving to be elusive for Cal State Northridge as the 10th-ranked Matadors, fighting for their playoff lives, ran into a buzz saw in USC Saturday night at Galen Center.
In falling 25-23, 25-22, 25-19, CSUN (11-13, 9-13 MPSF) was swept by a USC team that had won just five matches all season and just one of its past eight. The Matadors, who were also swept for just the second time this season, the other coming against top-ranked BYU, still can clinch an MPSF Tournament berth with one win in their final two matches next week.
"We were simply flat tonight, as flat as we've been all year," said Matador head coach Jeff Campbell. "Give some credit to USC, they played very well and hit at a high percentage. But I'm disappointed because we didn't play with any urgency tonight."
Senior John Baker
and junior Brandon Lebrock
each had a team-high 13 kills with Baker hitting .435 in 23 swings and Lebrock hitting .200 in 30 attacks. Baker also has a team-high six digs while Lebrock and Drew Staker
each had a team-high three blocks.
The Matadors were forced to play from behind in each and every set on Saturday. After taking a 12-10 lead following a Baker ace in set one, the two teams played even until the Trojans took a 21-19 lead after a Matador attack went wide. CSUN battled back, behind kills from Jared Moore
and Lebrock, to knot the score at 21-21. The score was still tied at 22-22, the Trojans claimed three of the final four points to take set one 25-23.
The Matadors quickly fell behind 4-1 in set two and eventually trailed by as many as five (8-3) before mounting a late charge. A Brian O'Gorman
block pulled CSUN within 24-22 but Sam Holt
's ensuing serve hit the tape and USC had a two-set lead.
The third and final set looked to get away from the Matadors early on as the Trojans took a 12-6 lead following a Cristian Rivera kill. CSUN continued to battle eventually cutting the lead to 16-14 after a Staker kill. But USC kept the pressure on scoring the next four points to go up for good 20-14.
The Trojans (6-16, 6-16 MPSF) were led by Rivera's match-high 18 kills (.500) while Joey Booth added 13 (.348) and Alex Slaught chipped in 12 (.625).
Cal State Northridge plays its final two matches of the regular season next week as the Matadors travel to UC Irvine on Wednesday (Apr. 10) and Long Beach State on Saturday (Apr. 13).