NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Behind a career-high 27 kills from freshman Julius Hoefer, 14th-ranked Cal State Northridge snapped a three-match losing streak and posted an important 25-12, 21-25, 25-20, 25-21 win over 12th-ranked Hawai'i in the opener of a two-match MPSF set Friday at The Matadome.
With the win, the Matadors (9-13, 5-10 MPSF) move into a tie for seventh-place in the MPSF with Long Beach State, a 3-0 loser to BYU on Friday. Both teams trail sixth-place Pepperdine (7-9) by 1.5 games. The top five spots in the MPSF Tournament have been sewn up leaving seven teams fighting for the final three spots.
Hoefer, who had not started at opposite since Feb. 29 against UC Santa Barbara, looked like he hadn't missed a beat as he struck for a career-high 27 kills in 45 swings while hitting .422. Hoefer got help from sophomore Brandon Lebrock who added 15 kills (.414), two of Northridge's three aces, four digs and five blocks.
After a pair of sub-par matches, junior Drew Staker bounced back with seven kills in 10 swings without an error to hit .700 to go with four blocks. Matador setter Danny Rodrick posted 50 assists and combined with libero Charlie Condron for 17 of Northridge's 30 digs.
"We played very well tonight," said Matador head coach Jeff Campbell. "The intensity was good and I thought the mental and physical readiness of our guys at the start of the match was really good. We got out to a big lead in game one and were steady after that. We lost game two and were down 19-16 in game four and we bounced back, I'm very happy that we got this win over a very good Hawai'i team."
The Matadors, who had found themselves playing from behind for much of their last three losses, had their way in the opening set after bolting out to a 5-1 lead. A Lebrock kill gave Northridge an eight-point cushion at 14-6 and after Hawai'i closed to within 14-8, the Matadors scored six unanswered to blow the set open 20-8. Hoefer's sixth kill of the frame on set point sent Northridge to the 25-12 win.
The Warriors, who hit -.045 in set one, bounced back to hit .344 in taking set two 25-21. A Taylor Averill service error put the Matadors in front 11-8 before Hawai'i scored four straight, the final on a Steven Hunt solo stuff, which gave the Warriors the lead for good 12-11. A Rodrick solo block on Averill temporarily evened the score at 16-16 but that was as close as the Matadors would get as Hawai'i pulled away late for the 25-21 win.
With Northridge holding on to a slim 11-10 lead in set three, the Matadors tallied three straight to take a 14-10 lead and eventually led by as many as five (16-11) following a Staker-Lebrock co-block. A mini 2-0 run by Hawai'i pulled the Warriors within three but they would get no closer the rest of the way.
Neither team led by more than three points for much of the final set as Northridge led early 11-8 and Hawai'i looked to take control at the midpoint 16-13. A Harrison Carroll kill gave the Warriors another three-point cushion at 19-16 and Hawai'i looked poised to force a fifth and deciding set. But the Matadors outscored Hawai'i 4-1 over the next five points and tied the set at 20-20 when Rodrick's serve clipped the net tape and rolled over and dropped on the Warriors' side. Hunt's kill on the ensuing point gave Hawai'i its final lead at 21-20 before a Hoefer kill sent the Matadors on a match-closing 5-0 run giving Northridge the 3-1 victory.
The Matadors wound up hitting .390 (57-16-105) as a team to .198 (45-24-106) for the Warriors. Northridge also posted an 11.0-7.0 edge in team blocks and had 30 digs to 24 for Hawai'i.
Hunt led the Warriors with 11 kills but hit just .030 in 33 attacks. JP Marks added 10 kills (.154) and setter Sam Biscaro registered 37 assists and six digs.
The two teams close out the two-match set Saturday at 7 p.m. The match will be shown live on ESPN3.
- GO MATADORS -