DENVER, Colo. - Playing its second match in a span of six hours, Cal State Northridge came up just short in its upset bid of 11th-ranked UCLA as the Bruins held on for a 27-25, 25-23, 20-25, 22-25, 15-12 victory Friday afternoon in the Denver Invitational at Hamilton Gymnasium.
The Matadors (6-2), trying to defeat UCLA for the first time in school history, nearly overcame a two-set deficit but the Bruins broke open an 11-11 tie in the fifth set claiming four of the final five points to pull out the 15-12 win. Natalie Allen's kill was CSUN's lone point in the final stages of the set.
Allen and senior Mahina Haina paced the Matadors with 15 kills apiece as Allen hit .355 on 31 swings while Haina hit .162 on a team-high 37 attacks. Sophomore Cieana Stinson added 13 kills in 34 swings (.118) and junior Sam Kaul added a career-high 10 kills on .533 hitting.
"We fought hard and the girls were very courageous about how they played the game," said head coach Jeff Stork. "We missed a couple of plays that were the difference tonight. It's disappointing, some of the basic plays we need to execute better but in the end we need to be good enough when it matters."
The Matadors had 64 kills as a team to 63 for UCLA but the Bruins wound up hitting .247 (63-27-146) to .224 (64-29-156) for CSUN. The Matadors also had a slight 52-51 edge in team digs as libero Kelcie Randazzo had a co-match high 18. Setter Sydney Gedryn notched her second double-double of the season with 52 assists and 10 digs.
The Matadors gave themselves the opportunity to get out to a quick start in set one as they set themselves up with three set points after Casey Hinger's kill made it 24-21. But back-to-back Bruin kills followed by a block on Haina's attack pulled UCLA even. The score was still tied at 25-25 when UCLA stuffed a Haina attack and an ensuing Matador error capped the Bruin comeback.
CSUN looked to pull even leading 23-21 late in the second set but again UCLA prevailed late. A Bruin kill and another timely block pulled the Bruins even at 23-23 and propelled UCLA on a set-clinching 4-0 run which put the Bruins comfortably in front two sets to none.
It was the Matadors' turn in set three to pull away late as CSUN snapped a 17-17 tie by winning five straight points capped by a Stinson put-away. Leading 22-17, the Matadors withstood a mini two-point run getting kills from Stinson and Hinger and a Bruin hitting error to take set three 25-20.
CSUN also showed its mettle in the fourth set after the two teams battled to a 21-21 tie. A kill and solo block by Stinson forced UCLA into a timeout at 23-21 and an ensuing Allen ace put the Matadors on the verge of forcing a fifth set at 24-21. Following a UCLA kill, Stinson answered again as CSUN found itself going five after the 25-22 win.
The Matadors had to like their chances having won all four of their five-set matches this season. After jumping out to early three-point leads at 3-0, 4-1 and 5-2, CSUN looked to be on its way but the Bruins scored three unanswered to knot the score at 5-5. UCLA took its first lead at 8-7 and then the two teams battled to an 11-11 tie before the Bruins pulled away late giving the Matadors their first two-match skid of the season.
"Coming in we knew this tournament would be a tough one," added Stork. "We didn't play well this morning but we put ourselves in a position to win this one, so it stings a little bit."
Karsta Lowe led UCLA with a match-high 19 kills (.412) while a pair of other Bruins also reached double figures in kills; Kelly Reeves with 13 (.265) and Mariana Aquino with 11 (.647)
Cal State Northridge plays its final match of the Denver Invitational Saturday afternoon as the Matadors take on the host Pioneers at 2 p.m. PDT.
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