Matador Comeback Comes Up Just Short as UCSB Prevails in Five Sets

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Down two sets, Cal State Northridge staged an impressive comeback only to come up short in the fifth and deciding set as visiting UC Santa Barbara defeated the Matadors 25-21, 25-16, 17-25, 16-25, 15-13 in a Big West Conference match at The Matadome.

Northridge (14-13, 8-7 Big West) was bidding to catch the Gauchos (17-11, 10-5 Big West) for second-place in the Big West standings but instead saw its losing streak to UCSB reach eight straight.

Three Matadors reached double figures in kills led by sophomore Natalie Allen's co-match-high 15 (.265). Allen also tied for team-high honors in digs with 19 for her 10th double-double of the 2011 campaign. Freshman Casey Hinger added 12 kills (.321) and sophomore Mahina Haina chipped in 11 kills (.143). Haina also set a career-high with four aces.

Matador libero Cindy Ortiz matched Allen with 19 digs and also served a trio of aces which is her season-high. Setter Sydney Gedryn registered 46 assists and eight digs while Monica McFarland posted 17 digs in the loss.

"I thought our team rebounded real well after the first two sets," said head coach Jeff Stork. "We were producing the points we needed to in the fifth set, unfortunately we had four service errors which turned out to be the story of the set."

After the Gauchos overcame an 11-4 deficit in the opening frame, Kara Sherrard's kill capped a 9-3 UCSB run and the Gachos had their first lead at 19-18. UCSB then pulled away late to take the frame 25-21.

The Gauchos dominated set two holding the Matadors to a .175 clip on the way to the 25-16 win. After an Allen kill temporarily brought CSUN within 17-15, UCSB rolled off eight of the next nine points to go up two sets.

Next it was the Matadors' turn to dominate as they led from start to finish in set three's 25-17 win. CSUN hit just .172 in the set but limited the Gauchos to an .057 clip. Then in the fourth set, the two teams battled to an 11-11 tie before the Matadors got an ace from Haina, a UCSB hitting error and an Allen-Sam Kaul block to open up a 14-11 lead. The CSUN lead swelled to as many as five (17-12) before the Matadors pulled away to force a fifth set.

Sherrard's ace gave the Gauchos an early 2-1 lead in the fifth before Northridge took advantage of a trio of UCSB miscues and a Graff kill to take a 5-2 lead. The Matadors led until Katey Thompson's kill evened the set 8-8. But an ensuing 4-1 CSUN run, highlighted by a pair of Allen kills, looked to put the Matadors comfortably in front 12-9.

But back came the Gauchos as a Stacey Schmidt kill followed by a pair of Matador miscues evened the score yet again at 12-12. Allen's kill on the ensuing point kept Northridge in front 13-12 before a pair of Leah Sully kills sandwiched around a co-block on Britney Graff gave the Gauchos the improbable win.

"The girls never gave up and I'm proud of them," added Stork. "The loss is upsetting but I like the character of this team. We're still playing real good volleyball and we're going to learn from this and somewhere down the road we'll benefit from a match like this."

Sully wound up matching Allen with 15 kills (.160) while Schmidt added 11 kills (.150) and Sherrard chipped in 10 but hit .000.

Cal State Northridge hosts Cal Poly in its final conference match of the season Saturdat at 7 p.m. The Matadors will honor seniors Sam Orlandini and Una Siljegovic prior to the match.

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