LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Cal State Northridge made history Thursday night becoming the first Matador team to win an NCAA Tournament match as CSUN held off the comeback efforts of 12th-ranked Colorado State in a 25-13, 25-21, 13-25, 18-25, 15-12 victory at Galen Center.
The Matadors (24-6) dominated the first two sets before the Rams (28-2) mounted a furious comeback to win sets three and four. The decisive fifth set went back and forth before CSUN claimed five of the final seven points to pull out a 15-12 decision.
Making their fifth NCAA Tournament appearance, the Matadors won for the first time and will take on sixth-seeded USC (a 3-0 winner over New Hampshire) Friday at 7 p.m.
"This is still a culmination, this is the the icing on the cake of a historical season," said Head Coach Jeff Stork. "This is the first time we've done this, the girls bought into our systems and they bought into each other."
The Matadors, who last won a postseason tournament match in 1994 when they defeated San Jose State in the National Invitational Volleyball Championship in Kansas City, Mo., got a combined 44 kills from Casey Hinger, Cieana Stinson and Natalie Allen against the Rams.
Hinger put down a team-high 17 kills to go with a team-high 16 digs as the first team All-Big West performer hit .467 on 30 attacks. Stinson was dominant over the first two sets and wound up with 15 kills, hitting .312 on 32 swings. The sophomore hit .857 in the first set alone with six kills in seven swings. Allen added 12 kills (.171) while also serving two aces with nine digs.
Senior setter Sydney Gedryn spread her 51 assists around as six different Matador hitters had at least six kills. Sam Kaul added nine kills while hitting .438 and matched Hinger and Gedryn with a pair of blocks. The Matadors, who were out-blocked just eight times this season, wound up being out-blocked by Colorado State 16.0-5.0 but their 68-59 advantage in kills was enough in the end.
CSUN came out on a mission hitting .391 over the first two sets, including .438 in set one. The Matadors played nearly error-free volleyball while the 12th-ranked Rams did not. The tide, however changed in a big way in the third set as Colorado State hit a blistering .791 to CSUN's .159. The Rams did not let up in set four hitting .417 to .159 for the Matadors.
"I think they definitely picked it up a bit after that second set," said Hinger. "We let them in a little but we decided we are here for a reason. We're not going to let an almost undefeated team think they can skate by us and we brought it to them."
With all the momentum favoring the Rams heading into the fifth set, things looked difficult for the Matadors trailing 7-4. Stinson's kill ended a 3-0 CSU run and propelled the Matadors on a 3-0 run of their own which tied the score at 7-7.
Following a Rams timeout, a solo block from Mahina Haina and a Haina kill gave the Matadors a brief 9-7 lead. Colorado State quickly tied the score again but could not take the lead when Adrianna Culbert's serve found the net. Gedryn's ensuing setter attack was stuffed at the net and the score was tied for the final time at 10-10.
An Allen kill and a Ram hitting error gave CSUN another two-point cushion and this time the Matadors would build on it following a CSU timeout. A Hinger-Gedryn stuff out of the timeout and another hitting miscue by the Rams set the Matadors up with match point at 14-10. Two straight CSU points prompted a Stork timeout before Michelle Lawrence's attack went wide on Colorado State's next swing and CSUN had the historic win.
"It wasn't the prettiest win in terms of losing the third and fourth the way that we did but volleyball is winning three out of five which we've done several times this year," added Stork. "This was a huge character win."
Lawrence wound up with a match-high 18 kills (.469) to lead the Rams who also received 16 kills from Kelsey Snider.
Cal State Northridge and USC will meet in the NCAA Tournament's second round Friday at 7 p.m. at Galen Center. The match will be televised by Pac-12 Network.
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