NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Sophomore Sam Holt connected for a career-high 37 kills leading Cal State Northridge (9-15, 8-13 MPSF) to a 25-22, 19-25, 28-26, 16-25, 23-21 upset over the visiting ninth-ranked UCLA Bruins in a MPSF match Thursday night at The Matadome.
Holt, who pounded a conference-high 32 kills against No. 2 BYU on Mar. 8, had 27 kills entering the fifth set when he erupted for 10 more in a gutsy 23-21 Matador win.
Holt's 37 kills is the most by a MPSF player since Stanford's Evan Romero's 37 against Pepperdine in 2010. His 40.5 total points is the most by a player in the MPSF since Long Beach State's Dean Bittner also had 40.5 points during the same 2010 season.
It was also the most kills by a CSUN hitter in eight seasons. Dan Rhodes was the last when he put down 35 kills against UC Santa Barbara in 2006. Rhodes holds the Matador rally scoring era record with 41 kills against Pepperdine, also in 2006.
No other Matador hitter had more than nine kills on the night as CSUN's leading hitter Greg Faulkner was stymied with nine kills and a .182 hitting clip on 22 swings. Vaughn Wellenreiter added seven kills (.500) while Damani Lenore added six kills (.125) but more importantly four aces. Lenore and Holt combined for seven of the Matadors' nine aces in the win.
"I'm extremely proud of the way Sam played tonight," said CSUN head coach Jeff Campbell. "To hit nearly .500 on 62 swings is phenomenal, he single-handedly carried us to the the win tonight. Damani was also big for us down the stretch as he pushed for points with his serve. Overall I thought it was an incredibly gritty effort by our guys."
Each of the first three sets were tied at 10-10 as neither team was able to pull away early on. The Matadors stormed out of the gate in the opener, hitting a robust .448, as they snapped a 16-16 tie with a three-point run. The Bruins stayed within two but could never close the gap further as CSUN took the first frame 25-22.
UCLA then began to connect offensively as the Bruins hit .435 to the Matadors' .280 in taking set two by the score of 25-19. The third set was a battle as the two teams traded the lead five times while playing to a tie 18 times. CSUN led 6-3 in the early going but from that point on neither squad led by more than two points the remainder of the set. With UCLA clinging to a 23-22 lead, a kill by Holt evened the score before Robart Page gave the Bruins set point at 24-23. The Matadors had one set point following a triple block but Bradley Sakaida's serve sailed long leveling the score at 25-25. The score was even again at 26, when Holt put down consecutive kills leading CSUN to the 28-26 win.
The Bruins dominated set four leading by as many as seven at 19-12. Campbell inserted some reserves for the remainder of the set in hopes of resting some key arms for the decisive fifth frame.
The strategy proved effective as CSUN had just enough left to pull out the 23-21 win. Things looked good early on as the Matadors bolted out to an 8-3 lead at the changeover and UCLA had spent both its timeouts. But the Bruins beagn to whittle away at the lead closing to 10-8 on a Lenore hitting error.
But a kill from Holt followed by a Travis Magorien ace looked to put CSUN in the drivers seat at 12-8. Three straight UCLA points, two coming on Gonzalo Quiroga kills, narrowed the Matador lead to 12-11. Lenore's kill pushed the lead back to 13-11 when the Bruins struck for three straight points setting themselves up with match point at 14-13. Spencer Rowe's ensuing serve found the net setting the stage for a delirious final 16 points.
Each team had several chances at the match as UCLA had three match points down the stretch while CSUN had five chances before connecting on its sixth. The Bruins had their final shot at 19-18 when Holt saved CSUN with his 35th kill. The Matadors' next chance came at 20-19 when Quiroga answered and CSUN also had a shot at 21-20 when Sakaida's service error prevented a win. But with the score knotted for the final time at 21-21, Holt put down his 36th and 27th kills sending the Matadors to the dramatic win.
Rowe wound up with a team-high 24 kills to lead UCLA (15-10, 12-9) while Quiroga added 17 (.394) and Page chipped in 10 (.529).
Cal State Northridge returns to The Matadome on Saturday night as the Matadors host No. 5 UC Santa Barbara at 7 p.m.
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