CSUN Tops Northern Arizona in Four Sets, Off to Best Start in 16 Years

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Natalie Allen and Casey Hinger each had a match-high 15 kills propelling Cal State Northridge to its best start in 16 years as the Matadors defeated Northern Arizona 20-25, 25-20, 25-22, 25-10 to capture the Fiesta Bowl Tournament Saturday at the Rolle Activity Center.

CSUN remained undefeated through six matches for the first time since the 1997 as the Matadors handed previously unbeaten Northern Arizona its first loss of 2013. Northridge also opened with six consecutive victories under Walt Ker in 1984.

The Matadors claimed their second tournament championship of 2013 after winning the Bulldog Invitational at Fresno State last weekend. Saturday's win over Northern Arizona also gave head coach Jeff Stork his 150th win on the Matador bench.

"I think we prepared well and the girls were ready to play," said Stork. "We played well enough this weekend and these are the types of teams that we need to beat in order to raise our RPI. These teams are going to do well in their conferences. We certainly have areas to improve on and next weekend is another big chellenge, we have to continue to play at high level to beat those teams." 

Allen, who earned MVP honors for the second time in as many tournaments this season, had her fifth consecutive double-double with 15 kills and 12 digs. Hinger, who was named to the all-tournament team, also had 15 kills which is a season-high. The junior from Fullerton, Calif. hit .310 on 29 attacks and also added a match-high five blocks. Sophomore Cieana Stinson also reached double figures with 11 kills (.231).

Junior libero Kelcie Randazzo was the third CSUN player named to the all-tournament team as she registered a match-high 17 digs giving her 42 digs in three Matador wins this weekend.

Senior setter Sydney Gedryn ran the game plan very well according to Stork, posting her first double-double of the season by handing out 47 assists combined with a career-high 16 digs.

The Matadors had a sizable advantage in hitting percentage as CSUN hit .321 as a team to .155 for NAU. The Matadors also out-blocked the Lumberjacks 11.0-5.0 and had 61 team digs to 44 for Northern Arizona.

The Lumberjacks broke open a tight opening set as a 16-14 NAU lead swelled to as many as five at 22-17 when Stinson's attack went long. Two straight points brought the Matadors back within 22-19 but the Lumberjacks claimed three of the final four points of the set.

Both teams hit well in set two as the Matadors hit .429 while NAU hit .423. CSUN bolted out to an 11-6 lead and soon after led 16-9 forcing the Lumberjacks into their second timeout. Three consecutive Matador hitting errors kept NAU in the hunt at 21-16 but CSUN regained its momentum in pulling away 25-20.

The Matadors also got out to a big lead in set three, leading 13-7 early on. A 7-1 NAU run knotted the score at 14-14 and the two teams then traded sideouts until 16-16 when the Matadors engineered a set-deciding 6-1 run capped by a Stinson putaway. The fourth and final set was all CSUN scored on nine of the first 12 points and never looked back. Leading by 14 points at 24-10, Hinger and Stinson teamed up to stuff a Lumberjack attack and the Matadors had their second straight tournament title of 2013.

Taylor Stephens had nine kills (.471) to lead all NAU hitters. Payton Bock (.375) and Janae Vander Ploeg (.026) each added eight kills.

Cal State Northridge plays its third tournament next weekend (Sept. 13-14) as the Matadors travel to Denver, Colo. to take on No. 10 UCLA, No. 19 Creighton and the host Denver Pioneers over the two-day tournament.

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