Matadors Complete Comeback, Top Rice in Five Sets

FRESNO, Calif. - Cal State Northridge faced its first real adversity of the young season Saturday morning as the Matadors came back to win the final two sets in a thrilling 25-23, 19-25, 24-26, 25-16, 15-13 victory over Rice at the Bulldog Invitational at Save Mart Center. 

Northridge (2-0) won for the second time in two matches in Fresno and will take on the host Bulldogs this evening at 7:30 p.m.

"We passed a whole lot better than last night," said Matador head coach Jeff Stork. "Natalie (Allen) had a much better offensive match and when they controlled our middles early Mahina (Haina) and Cece (Stinson) turned it on. When you can hit .300 with a .400 kill percentage good things are going to happen.

"Overall it was another tight match and a good win," added Stork. "But Fresno State will be another good test for us later tonight." 

For the Matadors, Natalie Allen matched her career-high with 21 kills while hitting. 500 in 36 attacks. The junior from Murrieta, Calif., completed her 26th career double-double by posting 11 digs to go with four blocks. Senior Mahina Haina added 12 kills and five digs while sophomore Cieana Stinson chipped in 11 kills while hitting .320.

CSUN senior setter Sydney Gedryn had another strong all-around match handing out 53 assists to go with eight kills, four aces, five digs and four blocks. Junior libero Kelcie Randazzo scooped up a career-high 19 digs while Brooke Dawson added eight digs and one ace.

The Matadors overcame a four-point Rice lead (17-13) in the opening set as a Gedryn ace and a Sam Kaul kill capped a 6-1 run which put CSUN in front 19-18. The Owls quickly took back the lead and held it until back-to-back kills from Stinson and Casey Hinger put the Matadors in front to stay 23-22.

Rice put the Matadors in a two sets to one hole leading virtually the entire way in sets two and three. After hitting .306 in set one, CSUN hit .296 and .273 but was forced to play from behind for much of the way. The Matadors had a pair of swings at the third set leading 24-22 late but the Owls rallied for four consecutive points to steal the set.

With the score knotted at 3-3 early in set four, the Matadors rallied for four straight points and would never trail again. The Owls closed to within 12-11, but another four-point CSUN run put the Matadors comfortably in front eventually posting the 25-16 win.

In the fifth set, the Matadors nearly squadered a pair of four-point leads as the Owls came back from 7-3 and 12-8 deficits to tie each time. With the score tied at 12, a Hinger kill and a co-block from Kaul and Gedryn gave CSUN the margin it needed and Haina's kill at 14-13 sent the Matadors to their second win in as many matches.

Jillian Humphrey led the Owls (0-2) with 18 kills while hitting .483. Humphrey also had five blocks while Lizzy Bache added 12 kills (.345).

NOTES: The last time the Matadors opened 2-0 was Jeff Stork's first season (2002). That season, CSUN opened 3-0, winning in its own Fremont Investment & Loan Invitational in The Matadome ... With a single solo block, Casey Hinger moved into a tie for fifth-place with Unn Kvendseth on the CSUN rally scoring era list with 24 career solo stuffs. Lynda Morales is fourth with 35 ... The win over Rice was Stork's 146th as the Matadors' head coach ... The Matadors improved to 3-1 against Rice and have now won two straight over the Owls.