IRVINE, Calif. - It's beginning to look like Cal State Northridge might need some help from an unlikely ally this weekend in its bid to reach the postseason.
After the 10th-ranked Matadors were swept at No. 4 UC Irvine 25-19, 25-19, 25-22 Wednesday night at the Bren Center, CSUN could advance if UC San Diego can upset 14th-ranked Hawaii either Friday or Saturday in La Jolla.
Despite being swept on Wednesday and with a road match at No. 2 Long Beach State on Saturday, Matador head coach Jeff Campbell left Irvine encouraged by the play of his team.
"I thought we played well at times tonight," said Campbell. "Irvine is a great team and they played really well but we had some good play out of some young guys in Chance Earnest, Sam Holt and Brian O'Gorman. Even though we lost, the guys showed some fire and did some really nice things. There were a lot of positives so I'm encouraged going forward."
Earnest, a true freshman, had the best match of his young Matador career with five kills in eight errorless swings to hit .625 while adding five digs. Earnest also had one ace as did setter Travis Magorien who added 25 assists. O'Gorman, a redshirt freshman, came off the bench to put down a career-high four kills in five attacks without an error to hit .800.
As a whole however, the CSUN offense was stymied by the Anteaters as the Matadors hit .160 (33-20-81) as a team, their lowest since hitting .158 against BYU on Mar. 22. Senior John Baker had a team-high 10 kills but hit a near season-low .103 in 29 swings. CSUN's leading hitter Drew Staker added six kills but hit just .182.
CSUN did not lead in either of the first two sets but led by as many as five, at 8-3, in set three. UCI battled back to within 9-7 and then took its first lead at 13-12 when Staker's attack went long. The Anteaters stretched their lead to as many as four (22-18) before the Matadors put together a late run to pull within 23-22 following Magorien's ace and a UCI hitting error. But a Zack La Cavera kill followed by a block on Baker's attack sent the Anteaters to the straight set win.
La Cavera led UC Irvine with a match-high 14 kills (.296) while Scott Kevorken added 10 kills (.500). The Anteaters, the third-best hitting team in the conference, wound up at .351 as a team for the match.
Cal State Northridge concludes the MPSF regular season Saturday at Long Beach State. First serve is scheduled for 7p.m. at the Walter Pyramid.
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