Matadors Fall in Second-Place Showdown at UC Santa Barbara

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - With sole possession of second-place in the Big West on the line, UC Santa Barbara handed Cal State Northridge a straight set loss (25-16, 25-21, 25-20) Wednesday at the Thunderdome. Sophomore Britney Graff led the Matadors with 10 kills in the loss.

The Matadors (13-12, 7-6 Big West) carried the momentum of five wins in their last six matches into Wednesday's tilt with the Gauchos but UCSB stifled the recently-hot CSUN offense. After hitting nearly .340 in two wins last weekend, the Matadors were limited to a .116 hitting clip on Wednesday.

Graff was the only Northridge hitter to register double figures in kills as the sophomore from Canyon Lakes, Calif., had a team-high 10 kills while hitting .296. Graff completed her second straight double-double and fourth of the season by adding 10 digs. Freshman Casey Hinger chipped in seven kills (.238) and three blocks but CSUN's other top-two hitters struggled as Mahina Haina had six kills (.033) and Natalie Allen had five kills (.080). Allen, however, was a force on the defensive end scooping up a team-high 20 digs.

The Matadors, who have not won in Santa Barbara since 2007 (a span of four matches), were out-hit .224-.116 and UCSB, the Big West's top defensive team had a slim 69-67 edge in team digs. CSUN did post a sizable 9.0-2.0 edge in team blocks.

The Matadors were right in the thick of it in set one trailing 12-11 following a Haina kill. But four straight Gaucho points opened up a 16-11 lead and UCSB would not trail again in the frame. The lead grew to as many as eight late (23-15) before the Gauchos closed things out 25-16.

CSUN quickly fell behind 7-2 in the second set only to stage a late rally to make things interesting. Down 15-8, a pair of kills from Haina and a Hinger kill pulled the Matadors within 15-11 forcing UCSB into a timeout. An ensuing 4-2 Gaucho run quickly built the lead back to six (19-13) before the Matadors battled back to within three (24-21) in the latter stages of the set.

Set three was the tighest of the match as the two teams traded sideouts until 18-18 when an Una Siljegovic hitting error and a Erica Lau ace gave the Gauchos the cushion they needed. A Haina hitting miscue out of a CSUN timeout put the Matadors in a 21-18 hole and Northridge could not recover falling 25-20.

Cal State Northridge, which wraps up the road portion of the 2011 regular season Friday at UC Irvine, will get a second crack at the Gauchos next Friday, Nov. 18 at The Matadome as the Matadors begin a season-ending three-match homestand.

- GO MATADORS -